Count Plunkett: scholar, failed politician, rebel emissary to the pope

Éireann_Ascendant

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“It is a true fact that the greatest swordsman in Italy would not fear the second greatest but would fear the worst, for that one would be unpredictable” – The Masque of Red Death (1964)
Plunkett’s Rising: Count Plunkett and His Family on the Road to Revolution, 1913-7 (Part I)

On Easter Monday, 1916, Count Plunkett dropped by the office of Archbishop Walsh of Dublin, and explained to the secretary there that he had just returned from Rome, having met the Pope and reassured him about the forthcoming rebellion.

When told about this, the Archbishop did not initially take the Count too seriously, regarding him “as a simple soul and [he] could not conceive a man like him being at the head of a revolution.” In truth, however, there was more to the elderly scholar, ardent Parnellite and three-time electoral candidate than meets the eye...



(Count Plunkett and his family)

Born in 1851 as a privileged scion of an illustrious name (the 17th century St. Oliver Plunkett was an ancestor), George Noble Plunkett established himself as a scholar and poet of note, as well as a fledgling politician. Despite originally being rejected by the Irish Party, he stood by Charles Stewart Parnell during the Divorce Crisis of 1890, later standing as a candidate for seats in Mid-Tyrone and twice in Dublin.

In Tyrone, he was attacked by a rival Nationalist mob while out canvassing. Punched in the mouth and bleeding heavily, he made it back to his wagon and escape amidst a hail of stones. While unsuccessful on all occasions, there was no doubting Plunkett's courage.

He was made a Papal Count by the Vatican for his generosity in funding a convent in Rome. Despite this award, and being regarded as “one of those trusted Catholic laymen who represented the best and most orthodox Catholic feeling of Dublin”, he was not above advising John Redmond to “neither fear nor despise the clergy," and to be subtle in dealing with power-brokering clerics.

He played a small role in the Easter Rising, in which all three of his sons, including Joseph Mary Plunkett, played a part. He was sent by Joseph on behalf of the Irish Volunteers to Rome to ensue that Pope Benedict XV did not condemn the rebels. According to the Count:

For nigh on two hours we discussed freely the question of the coming struggle for Irish independence. The Pope was much moved when I disclosed the fact that the date for the Rising was fixed and the reason for that decision. Finally, I stated that the Volunteer Executive pledged the Republic to fidelity to the Holy See and the interests of religion. Then the Pope conferred His Apostolic Benediction on the men who were facing death for Ireland’s liberty.
A somewhat different second-hand account portrays the Pope as being distinctly less willing to commit himself:

The Pope showed great perturbation and asked was there no peaceful way out of the difficulty…Count Plunkett answered every question, making it plain that it was the will of the leaders of the movement to act entirely with the good-will or approval – I forget which now – of the Pope and to give an assurance that they wished to act as Catholics. It was for that reason they came to inform his Holiness. All the Pope could do was express his profound anxiety.


(Pope Benedict XV)

One consistent detail in the different versions is how Count Plunkett informed the Pope that the date of the uprising was fixed, leaving the latter with no chance at dissuasion. It was the same Machiavellian deference he would apply when dropping in to see Archbishop Walsh. The Count may have been a pious man of a lofty intellect and cultured tastes, but he was also capable of low cunning when it was called for.
 


McTell

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No
People like him going to popes and archbishops meant the republic was anything but. Why? If your authority is to be the people of Ireland, why go crawling to anyone else?


He funded a convent in England, not Rome - or maybe as well as.

The 1600s Oliver Plunkett was not an ancestor, maybe a cousin of one.

Not an "emissary", and as we know benedict XV wasn't listening anyway.
 

The Field Marshal

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People like him going to popes and archbishops meant the republic was anything but. Why? If your authority is to be the people of Ireland, why go crawling to anyone else?


He funded a convent in England, not Rome - or maybe as well as.

The 1600s Oliver Plunkett was not an ancestor, maybe a cousin of one.

Not an "emissary", and as we know benedict XV wasn't listening anyway.
The best "republics" are the catholic ones.

And the best of those are the ones that follow orthodox papal teachings.

That is what the Irish people decided in the 1935 constitution.
 

ergo2

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People like him going to popes and archbishops meant the republic was anything but. Why? If your authority is to be the people of Ireland, why go crawling to anyone else?


He funded a convent in England, not Rome - or maybe as well as.

The 1600s Oliver Plunkett was not an ancestor, maybe a cousin of one.

Not an "emissary", and as we know benedict XV wasn't listening anyway.
The power of the Papacy had waned somewhat since Henry II got its support for Strongbow's invasion c 1189, but it was still an important diplomatic centre and influencer of world opinion.

The British Government had a strong presence at the Vatican and briefed heavily against those seeking independence for Ireland.

Plunkett amongst others in Rome sought to counteract that.

The Rector of the Irish COllege in Rome, O'Hagan, was an early republican. He introduced various emissaries from Ireland to some of the movers and the shakers, diplomatically speaking, in the Vatican and to the various diplomats in Rome.

He encouraged some of the senior Post-grads studying there to help in this work.

Seán T. Ó'Ceallaigh visited Paris during the Versailles Peace Conference 1919. Made some trips from there to Rome to meet diplomats in Rome thru Irish College contacts
 
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Éireann_Ascendant

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People like him going to popes and archbishops meant the republic was anything but. Why? If your authority is to be the people of Ireland, why go crawling to anyone else?
The problem was that those in charge were the people but the people followed the Church - the same reason post-1922 Ireland allowed itself to become a virtual theocracy.


He funded a convent in England, not Rome - or maybe as well as.
He May have funded one in England, but according to his daughter (who was, admittedly, wrong on quite a number of other points), he got his title of Count from funding one in Rome:

In 1884 Pa became a Papal Count as a result of help he gave to an order of nuns with a convent in Nottingham, the Little Company f Mary...The Pope had asked them to set up a branch of the order in Rome for which they would need a house. Pa, who knew some Irish women in the order, was in Rome at the time and when he was told about their situation, he searched until he found a suitable house...and had it decorated throughout before presenting it to them in 1883.
(All in the Blood: A Memoir of the Plunkett Family, the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence, p. 22)
 

GDPR

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I am a massive fan of his poetry....A lot of people know "His Blood Upon The Rose" but the others are fantastic in general to. It would be sad because Southern Ireland's apostasy from Catholicism that she never produced such essentially Catholic brilliance as Count Plunkett again which seems likely to be the case.
 

former wesleyan

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The best "republics" are the catholic ones.

And the best of those are the ones that follow orthodox papal teachings.

That is what the Irish people decided in the 1935 constitution.
Did they change it much in the 1937 one ?
 

Congalltee

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Why "failed" politician?
He was elected and reelected as an MP. Served as Ceann Comhairle and cabinet minister. He decided not to break his oath to the Republic and therefore opposed the Treaty.
 

Éireann_Ascendant

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Why "failed" politician?
He was elected and reelected as an MP. Served as Ceann Comhairle and cabinet minister. He decided not to break his oath to the Republic and therefore opposed the Treaty.
Only after trying three times in succession to run for MP (once in Mid-Tyrone, and twice in Dublin's St Stephen's Ward) and failing, and then being turned down by his own party for reimbursements.

Even his success in 1917 in North Roscommon was more due to the post-Rising circumstances and his personal connection as the father of one of the rebel leaders - he was barely present at his own campaign, since he arrived two day before polling was due (most of the work was done by Father O'Flanagan and Laurence Ginnell MP).

Plenty of his supporters did not take him too seriously. In the opinions of one, Kevin O'Shiel, the Count was simply:

…a conservative Catholic gentleman with harmless literary and cultural tastes which his job as Director of the National Gallery (bestowed on him by the Liberal Government) gave him ample time and opportunity to indulge in.
And this from someone who was at North Roscommon to help out.
 


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