#OTD in 1915 – Joseph Mary Plunkett travelled to Germany to join Roger Casement and assist him in his efforts to raise an Irish Brigade and garner German support for the planned 1916 Rising.

Once in Germany, Plunkett met with Casement, a former member of the British Foreign Office, who had travelled from America, funded by Clan na Gael under the leadership of John Devoy. Arriving in Berlin on 31 October 1914, Casement’s mission to Germany had three basic aims:

1. To secure German help for Ireland;
2. To educate the German people about Ireland’s situation so as to gain support for the cause;
3. To raise an Irish Brigade from Irish Prisoners of War who had been captured during the war.

In his bid to achieve these aims, Casement travelled secretly – in the guise of an American, ‘Mr Hammond’ – to the German headquarters on the Western Front between 17 and 19 November. There, he met with senior representatives, including Count von Lüttichau of the General Staff and Wilhelm von Stumm, head of the Political Department at the German Foreign Office.

While Casement had some success, convincing the German government to declare that, should their forces land in Ireland, they would do so as liberators, much of his time in late 1914 was spent distracted by the British authorities’ efforts to discredit and capture him. This led John Devoy to comment on the success of the above aims as follows: ‘Casement did his best in all these things, but did the first ineffectively, succeeded admirably in the second, and failed badly in the third’. Casement recruited only 56 of a possible 2,300 Irish prisoners of war for his Irish Brigade.

These views were not unique to Devoy, and it was for that reason that Plunkett travelled to Germany. It was hoped that he could negotiate with the German Foreign Office and convince them to support the planned Rising. Although he disagreed with Casement’s belief that an armed German force was necessary for its success, Plunkett nonetheless worked with Casement on ‘The Ireland Report’, an overly ambitious plan for the Rising. While the plan was rejected by the Germans, Plunkett did succeed in obtaining agreement to send a small shipment of arms and ammunition in the spring of 1916.

Plunkett travelled to New York to update Devoy on the outcome of the negotiations and preparations for the Rising. When he returned home, Plunkett was based at the recently purchased family home in Larkfield, Kimmage, which was also a Volunteer training camp and arms store, before falling ill again in April. Indeed, it was his poor health that led to the postponement of his marriage to Grace Gifford, scheduled for Easter Sunday 1916. His ill-health did not prevent him from participating in the Rising, however. Following his capture, Plunkett was executed by firing squad on 4 May, having married his fiancée just hours before his death.

Photo colourised by 1916 Easter Revolution in Colour

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