Joseph Mary Plunkett (1887-1916) writer and revolutionary leader, was executed for his role in organising and directing the Easter Rising in 1916. A member of the supreme council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the executive of the Irish Volunteers, Plunkett was one of a very small group of key planners on the IRB’s secretive, military council, including Éamonn Ceannt, Sean MacDiarmada and Thomas Clarke, who were primarily responsible for the planning of the Easter Rising.
Plunkett was the son of a prominent landowning Catholic family and his father George Noble Plunkett (1851-1948) was a significant public figure in nationalist Ireland. Growing up in what was then, south county Dublin, he had a privileged education in the elite Stoneyhurst College in Lancashire, and briefly in a Marist institution in Paris and he maintained a cosmopolitan outlook for the rest of his life. A committed revolutionary, Plunkett was a member of the executive of the Irish Volunteers at the movement’s foundation, the association with the Plunkett family’s prominence and respectability being an important asset to the fledgling organisation. Plunkett was, in many ways, an unlikely military leader, suffering from bouts of ill health all his life. He visited Germany in 1915 on behalf of the Irish Volunteers to recruit a proposed brigade consisting of Irish prisoners of war. Papers relating to this trip are available at the National Library of Ireland. He was widely respected by his peers in Ireland’s separatist circles and displayed genuine physical courage throughout Easter Week. He was executed by firing squad on 4 May. He married his sweetheart Grace Gifford in the prison chapel at Kilmainham Gaol only hours before his execution (Grace’s sister Muriel married Thomas Mac Donagh in January 1912.)
Plunkett published his first book of verse, The Circle and the Sword in 1911, followed by Occulta in 1915 and he became editor of The Irish Review in 1913. Under Plunkett’s guidance the magazine became publicly associated with the Irish Volunteers and published their manifesto to a wide readership