Today at The Rising Blog, we are taking a look at the last letters and statements of Seán Mac Diarmada, the focal point this upcoming film — the first to tackle this pivotal event in Irish and global history. While some of the major events of Easter Week and its aftermath — the siege of the GPO, the Battle for Dublin, and the executions at Kilmainham Gaol — may be familiar to us, some of the harrowing details and personal stories of Rising may be less familiar, but nevertheless fascinating.
Seán Mac Diarmada was with Tom Clarke in Kilmainham Gaol following their arrest, and both wrote to Clarke’s wife Kathleen on 30 April 1916. Mac Diarmada and Clarke wrote on opposite sides of the same notecard. (Note: “McG, John, and Madge” in Tom Clarke’s letter probably refers to Seán McGarry, John Daly, and Madge Daly, respectively.)
I never felt so proud of the boys. ‘Tis worth a life of suffering to be with them for one hour. God bless you all.
I am in better health and more satisfied for many a day — all will be well eventually — but this is my good-bye and now you are ever before me to cheer me — God bless you and the boys. Let them be proud to follow the same path — Sean is with me and McG, all well — they all heroes. I’m full of pride my love.
My love to John & Madge &c.
Mac Diarmada’s court martial was on May 9, and he was sentenced to death. He wrote a heartening letter to his brothers and sisters, on May 11 1916, in which he stated “I die so that the Irish people may live.” Referring to his sweetheart, Min Ryan, Mac Diarmada wrote “If I think of any other things to say I will tell them to Miss Ryan, she who in all probability, had I lived, would have been my wife.” He assured them that “in my last hours I am the same Seán they always know and that even now I can laugh and enjoy a good joke as well as ever.”
Just minutes before his execution, Mac Diarmada completed this final statement:
I, Seán Mac Diarmada, before paying the penalty of death for my love of Ireland, and abhorrence of her slavery, desire to make known to all my fellow-countrymen that I die, as I have lived, bearing no malice to any man, and in perfect peace with Almighty God. The principles for which I give my life are so sacred that I now walk to my death in the most calm and collected manner. I meet death for Ireland’s cause as I have worked for the same cause all my life. I have asked the Rev. E. McCarthy who has prepared me to meet my God and who has given me courage to face the ordeal I am about to undergo, to convey my message to my fellow-countrymen. God Save Ireland.
Seán Mac Diarmada was executed on 12 May 1916 at approximately 3:45 am in Kilmainham Gaol. He was thirty-three years old.