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Joseph Mary Plunkett

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Joseph Mary Plunkett (November 21, 1887 - May 4, 1916) was an Irish nationalist, poet, and leader of the Easter Rising in 1916. His father, George Noble Plunkett, was a papal count and curator of the National Museum. At a young age Plunkett was stricken with tuberculosis, and spent part of his youth in the warmer climates of the Mediterranean and north Africa. He studied at the English Jesuit School at Stonyhurst in Lancashire, and acquired some military knowledge from the Officers' Training Corps there.

Throughout his life, Joseph Plunkett took an active interest in Irish hertiage and the Irish language. He joined that Gaelic League, and took on as a tutor Thomas MacDonagh, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. The two were both poets with an interest in theater, and both were early members of the Irish Volunteers, joining their provisional committee. Plunkett's interest in Irish nationalism spread throughout his family, notably to his younger brothers George and John, as well as his father, who allowed his property in Kimmage, north Dublin, to be used as a training camp for young men who wished to escape conscription in England during World War I. Men there were instead trained to fight for Ireland.

Sometime probably in 1915 Joseph Plunkett joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), and soon after was sent to Germany to meet with Sir Roger Casement who was negotiating with the German government on behalf of Ireland. Casement's role as emmissary was self-appointed, and as he was not a member of the IRB, that organization's leadership wished to have one of their own contact Germany to negotiate German aid for an uprising the following year. He was seeking (but not limiting himself to) a shipment of arms. Casement, on the other hand, spent most of his energies recruiting Irish prisoners of war in Germany to form a brigade to fight instead for Ireland. Most nationalists in Ireland saw this as a fruitless endeavor, and preferred to seek weapons. Plunkett successfully got a promise of a German arms shipment to coincide with the rising.

Plunkett was one of the original members of the IRB Military Committee that was responsible for planning the rising, and it was largely his plan that was followed. As such he may be held partially responsible for the military disater that ensued, though one should realize that under the circumstances any plan was bound to fail. Shortly before the rising was to begin, Plunkett was hospitalized following a turn for the worse in his health. He had an operation on his neck glands days before Easter and had to struggle out of bed to take part in what was to follow. Still bandaged, he took his place in the General Post Office with several other of the rising's leaders such as Patrick Pearse and Tom Clarke, though his health prevented him from being terribly active. His energetic aide de camp was Michael Collins.

Following the surrender Plunkett was held in Kilmainham Jail, and faced a court martial. Hours before his execution by firing squad he was married in the prison chapel to his sweetheart Grace Gifford, whose sister had years before married his best friend Thomas MacDonagh.

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