Joseph Plunkett, one of the leaders of the 1916 rising and a signatory of the Proclamation is born into a privileged background. His father was a Papal Count.
A gifted writer, he met Thomas MacDonagh when he was tutored by him in Irish in preparation for the University College, Dublin, matriculation examinations. MacDonagh was to become a close friend, as both were interested in poetry, religion and mysticism. Plunkett graduated from UCD in 1909 but he contracted tuberculosis as a young man and spent periods in Italy, Algeria and Egypt in the years 1910-12. Plunkett edited the Irish Review, supported Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin and took the workers’ stand during the 1913 lock-out.
He was elected to the provisional committee of the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and later became a member of the IRB and fully committed to armed revolution. In April 1915, Plunkett went to Germany to assist Roger Casement in procuring arms and assistance for the Easter rebellion.
Joseph Plunkett and Séan Mac Diarmada, are believed to have forged or at least “hyped-up” a document released on 19 April 1916, supposedly emanating from Dublin Castle, which suggested the authorities were about to crack down on Irish Volunteers and the rising nationalism.
With James Connolly and Séan Mac Diarmada, Plunkett was involved in the military strategy for the insurrection and was the youngest signatory of the Proclamation. In poor health and recovering from an operation on his glands, Plunkett still joined other members of the Provisional Government in the GPO for the Rising.
He married Grace Gifford, a sister-in-law of Thomas MacDonagh, at Kilmainham the night before he was executed. Just before he faced the firing squad, on 4 May 1916, he said: “I am very happy I am dying for the glory of God and the Honour of Ireland.”
The main railway station in Waterford city is named after him, as was the Joseph Plunkett Tower in Ballymun, and Plunkett barracks in the Curragh Camp, Co Kildare.
Photo credit: 1916 Easter Revolution in Colour