The leaders of the 1916 Rising were "traitors to their own cause", an outspoken politician claimed.

Senator David Norris sparked heated exchanges in Ireland's Upper House when he spoke of his opinions about those who participated in the Rising.

The former presidential candidate said: "If one looks at 1916, I believe Yeats [Irish poet, W.B. Yeats] was correct in his first impression of these people when he said they were vainglorious

"They were seen by the British as traitors to the empire, but they were traitors to their own cause because Eoin MacNeill, the commander-in-chief, had cancelled the Rising and yet they ignored that."

Norris also told the Seanad he agreed with observations made in recent months by former taoiseach (Prime Minister) John Bruton about the men and women who fought in the Rising.

The former Fine Gael leader has previously been critical of the Easter Rising and blamed the event for damaging the Irish psyche, making people more pro-violence and even causing the outbreak of the bloody Civil War.

On Thursday, in comments which coincided with the centenary of Home Rule in Dublin, Bruton reiterated his past criticism of the Rising, insisting it did not meet the criterion of a just war.

He said that the fact that Home Rule for Ireland became law 100 years ago meant that the use of violence in the Rising was not a genuine last resort and had no hope of military success.

He was also critical of the leaders of the Rising for taking the opposite side to their fellow countrymen in the trenches in World War 1.

He also insisted the 1916 leaders were not neutral, but were taking the side of Germany, which had invaded Belgium and France.

And echoing comments he made earlier this year, he said he believed Ireland would have become independent if it had stuck with the Home Rule policy and avoided the Rising, adding that Home Rule was already on the statute books and was not about to be reversed.

The comments by both Bruton and Norris were criticized yesterday in the Seanad (Senate).

Fianna Fail Senator Mary White said: "Padraig Pearse and his comrades fought for independence after 800 years of domination by Britain.

"In 2016 we will celebrate the freedom achieved by those who fought on these streets."

And Fianna Fail Senator Ned O'Sullivan accused Norris of driving "a coach and four through the whole history of 1916", adding that he "came out with what to me seems a shocking statement that the leaders of 1916 were traitors".