seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Irish Nationalist Joseph Mary Plunkett

joseph-mary-plunkettJoseph Mary Plunkett, Irish nationalist, poet, journalist, and a leader of the 1916 Easter Rising, is born at 26 Upper Fitzwilliam Street in Dublin on November 21, 1887.

Both his parents come from wealthy backgrounds, and his father, George Noble Plunkett, has been made a papal count. Despite being born into a life of privilege, young Joe Plunkett does not have an easy childhood.

Plunkett contracts tuberculosis at a young age. This is to be a lifelong burden. His mother is unwilling to believe his health is as bad as it is. He spends part of his youth in the warmer climates of the Mediterranean and North Africa. He spends time in Algiers where he studies Arabic literature and language and composes poetry in Arabic. He is educated at the Catholic University School and by the Jesuits at Belvedere College in Dublin and later at Stonyhurst College, in Lancashire, England, where he acquires some military knowledge from the Officers’ Training Corps. Throughout his life, Plunkett takes an active interest in Irish heritage and the Irish language, and also studies Esperanto. He is one of the founders of the Irish Esperanto League. He joins the Gaelic League and begins studying with Thomas MacDonagh, with whom he forms a lifelong friendship. The two are both poets with an interest in theatre, and both are early members of the Irish Volunteers, joining their provisional committee. Plunkett’s interest in Irish nationalism spreads throughout his family, notably to his younger brothers George and John, as well as his father, who allows his property in Kimmage, south Dublin, to be used as a training camp for young men who wish to escape conscription in Britain during the First World War. Men there are instead trained to fight for Ireland.

Sometime in 1915 Plunkett joins the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and soon after is sent to Germany to meet with Roger Casement, who is negotiating with the German government on behalf of Ireland. Casement’s role as emissary is self-appointed, and, as he is not a member of the IRB, the organisation’s leadership wishes to have one of their own contact Germany to negotiate German aid for an uprising the following year. Plunkett is seeking, but not limiting himself to, a shipment of arms. Casement, on the other hand, spends most of his energies recruiting Irish prisoners of war in Germany to form a brigade to fight instead for Ireland. Some nationalists in Ireland see this as a fruitless endeavour, and prefer to seek weapons. Plunkett successfully gets a promise of a German arms shipment to coincide with the rising.

Plunkett is one of the original members of the IRB Military Committee that is responsible for planning the Easter Rising, and it is largely his plan that is followed. Shortly before the rising is to begin, Plunkett is hospitalised following a turn for the worse in his health. He has an operation on his neck glands days before Easter and has to struggle out of bed to take part in what is to follow. Still bandaged, he takes his place in the General Post Office with several other of the rising’s leaders, including Patrick Pearse and Tom Clarke, though his health prevents him from being terribly active. His energetic aide-de-camp is Michael Collins.

Following the surrender Plunkett is held in Kilmainham Gaol, and faces a court-martial. Seven hours before his execution by firing squad at the age of 28, he is married in the prison chapel to his sweetheart Grace Gifford, a Protestant convert to Catholicism, whose sister, Muriel, had years before also converted and married his best friend Thomas MacDonagh, who is also executed for his role in the Easter Rising. Plunkett is executed by firing squad on May 4, 1916 and is the fourth and youngest signatory of the Proclamation of the Republic to be executed.

Plunkett’s brothers, George Oliver Plunkett and Jack Plunkett, join him in the Easter Rising and later become important Irish Republican Army (IRA) men. His father’s cousin, Horace Plunkett, is a Protestant and unionist who seeks to reconcile unionists and nationalists. Horace Plunkett’s home is burned down by the Anti-Treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War.

The main railway station in Waterford City is named after Plunkett as is Joseph Plunkett Tower in Ballymun. Plunkett barracks in the Curragh Camp, County Kildare is also named after him.


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The Beginning of the 1916 Easter Rising

proclamation-of-independenceThe Easter Rising, also known as the Easter Rebellion, begins in Dublin 100 years ago today and lasts for six days. The Rising, organised by seven members of the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, is launched to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom is heavily engaged in World War I. It is the most significant uprising in Ireland since the Irish Rebellion of 1798, and the first armed action of the Irish revolutionary period.

Shortly before midday, members of the Irish Volunteers, led by schoolmaster and Irish language activist Patrick Pearse and joined by the smaller Irish Citizen Army of James Connolly and 200 women of Cumann na mBan, seize key locations in Dublin and proclaim an Irish Republic. The rebels’ plan is to hold Dublin city centre, a large, oval-shaped area bounded by the Grand Canal to the south and the Royal Canal to the north, with the River Liffey running through the middle.

The rebels march to the General Post Office (GPO) on O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main thoroughfare, and occupy the building and hoist two republican flags. Pearse stands outside and reads the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

Elsewhere in Dublin, some of the headquarters battalion under Michael Mallin occupy St. Stephen’s Green, where they dig trenches and barricade the surrounding roads. The 1st battalion, under Edward “Ned” Daly, occupy the Four Courts and surrounding buildings, while a company under Seán Heuston occupies the Mendicity Institution across the River Liffey from the Four Courts. The 2nd battalion, under Thomas MacDonagh, occupies Jacob’s Biscuit Factory. The 3rd battalion, under Éamon de Valera, occupy Boland’s Mill and surrounding buildings. The 4th battalion, under Éamonn Ceannt, occupy the South Dublin Union and the distillery on Marrowbone Lane. From each of these garrisons, small units of rebels establish outposts in the surrounding area.

There are isolated actions in other parts of Ireland, with attacks on the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks at Ashbourne, County Meath and in County Galway, and the seizure of the town of Enniscorthy, County Wexford. Due to a last-minute countermand issued on Saturday, April 22, by Volunteer leader Eoin MacNeill, the number of rebels who mobilise is much lower than expected.

The British Army brings in thousands of reinforcements as well as artillery and a gunboat. There is fierce street fighting on the routes into the city centre, where the rebels put up stiff resistance, slowing the British advance and inflicting heavy casualties. Elsewhere in Dublin, the fighting mainly consists of sniping and long-range gun battles. The main rebel positions are gradually surrounded and bombarded with artillery.

With much greater numbers and heavier weapons, the British Army suppresses the Rising, and Pearse agrees to an unconditional surrender on Saturday, April 29. Almost 500 people are killed during Easter Week. About 54% are civilians, 30% are British military and police, and 16% are Irish rebels. More than 2,600 are wounded. Many of the civilians are killed as a result of the British using artillery and heavy machine guns, or mistaking civilians for rebels. Others are caught in the crossfire in a crowded city. The shelling and the fires leave parts of inner city Dublin in ruins.

After the surrender the country remains under martial law. About 3,500 people are taken prisoner by the British, many of whom have played no part in the Rising, with 1,800 of them being sent to internment camps or prisons in Britain. Most of the leaders of the Rising are executed following courts-martial. The Rising brings physical force republicanism back to the forefront of Irish politics, which for nearly 50 years has been dominated by constitutional nationalism. It, and the British reaction to it, leads to increased popular support for Irish independence. In December 1918, republicans, represented by the reconstituted Sinn Féin party, win a landslide victory in the general election to the British Parliament. They do not take their seats, but instead convene the First Dáil and declare the independence of the Irish Republic, which ultimately leads to the Irish War of Independence.


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Birth of Thomas James Clarke, Irish Revolutionary Leader

thomas-james-clarkeThomas James “Tom” Clarke, Irish republican revolutionary leader and arguably the person most responsible for the 1916 Easter Rising, is born to Irish parents on March 11, 1858 at Hurst Castle, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, England opposite the Isle of Wight. Clarke’s father, a sergeant in the British Army, is transferred to Dungannon, County Tyrone, in 1865 and it is there that Tom grows up.

In 1878, following the visit to Dungannon of John Daly, Clarke joins the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and soon becomes head of the local IRB circle. In August, in retaliation to the killing of a man by a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), Clarke and other IRB members attack some RIC men in Irish Street but are driven back. Fearing arrest, Clarke flees to the United States.

In 1883, Clarke is sent to London to blow up London Bridge as part of the Fenian dynamite campaign advocated by Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. He is arrested along with three others and tried and sentenced to penal servitude for life on May 28, 1883 at London’s Old Bailey. He subsequently serves 15 years in Pentonville and other British prisons. In 1896, a series of public meetings in Ireland call for the release of Clarke and the other four remaining Fenian prisoners.

Following his release in 1898, Clarke moves to Brooklyn, New York where he marries Kathleen Daly, 21 years his junior and niece of John Daly. Clarke works for the Clan na Gael under John Devoy. In 1906, the couple moves to a 30-acre farm in Manorville, New York and purchases another 30 acres in 1907 shortly before returning to Ireland.

In Ireland, Clarke opens a tobacconist shop in Dublin and immerses himself in the IRB which is undergoing a substantial rejuvenation under the guidance of younger men such as Bulmer Hobson and Denis McCullough.

Clarke takes a keen interest when the Irish Volunteers are formed in 1913 but takes no part in the organisation feeling that his criminal record would lend discredit to the Volunteers. With several IRB members taking important roles in the Volunteers, it becomes clear that the IRB will have substantial to total control of the Volunteers. This proves largely to be the case until John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, demands the Provisional Committee accept 25 additional members of the Party’s choosing, giving IPP loyalists a majority stake. Though most of the hard-liners stand against this, Redmond’s decree is accepted, partially due to the support given by Bulmer Hobson. Clarke never forgives him for what he considers a treasonous act.

Following Clarke’s falling out with Hobson, Sean MacDermott and Clarke become almost inseparable. In 1915, Clarke and MacDermott establish the Military Committee of the IRB to plan what later becomes the Easter Rising. The members are Patrick PearseÉamonn Ceannt, and Joseph Plunkett, with Clarke and MacDermott adding themselves shortly thereafter. When Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa dies in 1915, Clarke uses his funeral to mobilise the Volunteers and heighten expectation of imminent action. When an agreement was reached with James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army in January 1916, Connolly is added to the committee. Thomas MacDonagh is added at the last minute in April. These seven men are the signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic, with Clarke as the first signatory.

Clarke is stationed at headquarters in the General Post Office during the events of Easter Week of 1916, where rebel forces are largely composed of Irish Citizen Army members under the command of Connolly. Though he holds no formal military rank, Clarke is recognised by the garrison as one of the commanders and is active throughout the week in the direction of the fight. Following their surrender on April 29, Clarke is held in Kilmainham Gaol until his execution by firing squad on May 3 at the age of 59. He is the second person to be executed following Patrick Pearse.

Before his execution, Clarke asks his wife to give this message to the Irish People:

“I and my fellow signatories believe we have struck the first successful blow for Irish freedom. The next blow, which we have no doubt Ireland will strike, will win through. In this belief, we die happy.”


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The Fenian Rising of 1867

fenian-rising-1867The Fenian Rising of 1867, a rebellion against British rule in Ireland organised by the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), begins in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary on March 5, 1867.

The Irish Republican Brotherhood is founded in Dublin by James Stephens in 1858. After the end of the American Civil War, the IRB hopes to recruit willing Irish veterans of that war for an insurrection in Ireland aimed at the foundation of an Irish Republic.

In 1865, the Fenians begin preparing for a rebellion by collecting firearms and recruiting men willing to fight. In September 1865, the British move to close down the Fenian newspaper The Irish People and arrest many of the leadership. In 1866, habeas corpus is suspended in Ireland and there are hundreds more arrests of Fenian activists.

In early 1867, prior to the March 5 rising, Thomas J. Kelly, Stephens’ successor as leader of the IRB, tries to launch an insurrection but it proves uncoordinated and fizzles in a series of skirmishes. In February 1867, there is an unsuccessful rising in County Kerry.

The largest of the March 5 engagements takes place at Tallaght, when several hundred Fenians, on their way to the meeting point at Tallaght Hill, are attacked by the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) near the police barracks and are driven away after a firefight. A total of twelve people are killed across the country on this day. When it becomes apparent that the coordinated rising that had been planned is not transpiring, most rebels simply go home.

The rising fails as a result of lack of arms and planning, but also because of the British authorities’ effective use of informers. Most of the Fenian leadership is arrested before the rebellion takes place.

Though the Rising of 1867 is unsuccessful, they proclaim an Irish Republic, almost 50 years before the Proclamation of the Irish Republic in Easter 1916. This proclamation sheds some light on early Fenianism as it is centered with the ideas of republican democracy but is, however, flavoured with socialist ideals and a class revolution rather than a nationalist revolution per se. The proclamation claims that their war is “against the aristocratic locusts, whether English or Irish” which denotes that their ideology at this time is in some way embedded in class differences against the landed aristocracy rather than merely against British rule.

The rising itself is a total military failure, but it does have some political benefits for the Fenian movement. There are large protests in Ireland against the execution of Fenian prisoners, many of whose death sentences are, as a result, reprieved. In 1873, the Irish Republican Brotherhood adopts a new constitution, which states that armed rebellion will not be pursued again until it has mass backing from the people. The Fenians cooperate with the Irish National Land League in the land agitation from the 1870s onwards and in the rise of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Not all Fenians agree with the new policy and several breakaway groups emerge that continue to believe in the use of political violence in pursuit of republican objectives.


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Birth of Irish Revolutionary Leader Seán Mac Diarmada

sean-mac-diarmadaSeán Mac Diarmada, Irish political activist and revolutionary leader also known as Seán MacDermott, is born in Corranmore, near Kiltyclogher in County Leitrim on February 28, 1883. He is one of the seven leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 and a signatory of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

Mac Diarmada is educated by the Irish Christian Brothers. He moves to Dublin in 1908, by which time he already has a long involvement in several Irish separatist and cultural organisations, including Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Gaelic League. He is soon promoted to the Supreme Council of the IRB and is eventually elected secretary.

In 1910, he becomes manager of the radical newspaper Irish Freedom, which he founds along with Bulmer Hobson and Denis McCullough. He also becomes a national organiser for the IRB and is taken under the wing of veteran Fenian Tom Clarke and the two become nearly inseparable. Shortly afterward, Mac Diarmada is stricken with polio and is forced to walk with a cane.

In November 1913, Mac Diarmada is one of the original members of the Irish Volunteers and continues to work to bring the organisation under IRB control. Mac Diarmada is arrested in Tuam, County Galway, in May 1915 under the Defense of the Realm Act for giving a speech against enlisting into the British Army.

Following his release in September 1915, Mac Diarmada joins the secret Military Committee of the IRB, which is responsible for planning the rising.

Due to his disability, Mac Diarmada has little participation in the fighting of Easter week, but is stationed at the headquarters in the General Post Office (GPO), as one of the Provisional Republican Government. Following the surrender on April 29, 1916, he nearly escapes execution by blending in with the large body of prisoners but is eventually identified by Daniel Hoey of G Division. Following a May 9 court-martial, Mac Diarmada, at the age of 33, is executed by firing squad. Before his execution, Mac Diarmada writes, “I feel happiness the like of which I have never experienced. I die that the Irish nation might live!”

In September 1919, Hoey is shot dead by Michael Collins’s Squad. Likewise, the British Officer who ordered Mac Diarmada to be shot rather than imprisoned, is also killed in Cork on Collins’s order during the Irish War of Independence.

Seán MacDermott Street in Dublin, Mac Diarmada rail station in Sligo, and Páirc Sheáin Mhic Dhiarmada, the Gaelic Athletic Association stadium in Carrick-on-Shannon are named in his honour. Sean MacDermott tower in Ballymun, demolished in 2005, was also named after him. In his hometown of Kiltyclogher a statue enscribed with his final written words is erected in the village centre and his childhood home has become a National Monument.

Mac Diarmada will be portrayed by actor Colin Morgan in the 2016 Irish historical biopic drama film, The Rising, written by Kevin McCann and Colin Broderick.


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Birth of Revolutionary Leader Thomas MacDonagh

thomas-macdonaghThomas MacDonagh, political activist, poet, playwright, educationalist, revolutionary leader, and one of the seven leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916, is born in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary, on February 1, 1878.

MacDonagh grows up in a household filled with music, poetry, and learning and is instilled with a love of both English and Irish culture from a young age. He attends Rockwell College and spends several years in preparation for a missionary career but soon realizes that it isn’t the life for him and leaves the college. He teaches briefly at St. Kieran’s College in Kilkenny and, from 1903, is employed as a professor of French, English, and Latin at St. Colman’s College, Fermoy, County Cork, where he forms a branch of the Gaelic League. He moves to Dublin and establishes strong friendships with such men as Eoin MacNeill and Patrick Pearse.

In Dublin, MacDonagh joins the staff St. Enda’s School upon its establishment in 1908, as a French and English teacher and Assistant Headmaster. In January 1912 he marries Muriel Gifford and takes the position of lecturer in English at the National University, while continuing to support St Enda’s. MacDonagh remains devoted to the Irish language and, in 1910, he becomes tutor to a younger member of the Gaelic League, Joseph Plunkett.

In 1913, MacDonagh and Plunkett attend the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers and join its Provisional Committee. MacDonagh is later appointed Commandant of Dublin’s 2nd battalion and eventually made commandant of the entire Dublin Brigade. MacDonagh develops strong republican beliefs and joins the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in the summer of 1915. Around this time, Tom Clarke asks MacDonagh to plan the grandiose funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, which is a resounding propaganda success largely due to the graveside oration delivered by Pearse.

MacDonagh joins the secret Military Council that is planning the rising in April 1916, just weeks before the rising takes place. Although joining the Council during the late stages of the planning process, MacDonagh is, nevertheless, a signatory of the Proclamation of the Republic.

During the rising, MacDonagh’s battalion is stationed at the massive Jacob’s Biscuit Factory complex. On the way to this destination the battalion encounters veteran Fenian John MacBride, who joins the battalion as second-in-command.

Although MacDonagh’s battalion is one of the strongest, they see little fighting as the British Army avoids the factory and establishes positions in central Dublin. MacDonagh receives the order to surrender on April 30, although his entire battalion is fully prepared to continue the engagement. Following the surrender, MacDonagh is court martialled and executed by firing squad at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin on May 3, 1916,  at the age of thirty-eight.