ON THIS DAY: Count Plunkett and the North Roscommon By-Election win, 3rd February 1917

Éireann_Ascendant

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Hurrah for Plunkett,
Ring out the slogan call.
The Count’s our man,
He leads the van for Ireland over all.​

In what was to be called the Election of the Snows, Count Plunkett defeated the candidate for the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) along with an Independent runner for the North Roscommon seat on the 3rd February 1917.



(Count and Countess Plunkett)​

Retrospectively, this marked the ruin of the IPP and its replacement by Sinn Féin. Despite being nominated by Sinn Féin, Count Plunkett did not identify with the party during the actual election, and was supported by a number of other Nationalist activists and organisations, such as the Irish Nation League, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).

Originating in Ulster as an anti-Partition movement, the Irish Nation League enjoyed some initial success in the rest of the country. But infighting and a lack of clear direction had diminished the momentum of the League by December 1916. The by-election in North Roscommon, triggered by the death of its long-term MP, gave the League, among others, a fresh battlefield on which to fight on.

Also involved was the IRB, at least in part. Seamus O'Doherty, the acting head of its Supreme Council, helped nominate the Count and served as his Director of Elections. He was unable to persuade the rest of the Council to support the election, however.

Holding this diverse collection of renegades, revolutionaries and radicals was Father Michael O'Flanagan. A charismatic speaker and tireless worker, the curate of Crossna was described by the Irish Times as being:

...up and down the constituency, going like a whirlwind and talking in impassioned language to the people at every village and street corner and cross-roads where he could get people to listen to him.
But what of the candidate himself?

A noted scholar, Count Plunkett had spent the years prior to the Easter Rising as the Director of the National Museum of Ireland. By then in his 60s, he was a most unlikely figurehead for a revolution but he did have one advantage that none of the other candidates could hope to duplicate: his son, Joseph Mary Plunkett, had been among those executed as part of the Rising.

The subsequent success of the Plunkett campaign was a sign of how completely the country had come to identify with the events of Easter Week 1916, and utterly the IPP's stock had fallen with the electorate.



(Plaque on the wall of Boyle Courthouse in commemoration on the election, reading: “In this Courthouse on February 3rd 1917, George Noble Count Plunkett was elected Sinn Fein M.P. for North Roscommon. His election was the first step in breaking the parliamentary links with England.”)
 


Éireann_Ascendant

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From what I recall though Plunkett was a disaster afterwards?
He narrowly avoided being one, though not for want of trying on his part.

Tried setting up his own 'alternative Sinn Féin', the Liberty Clubs, in April 1917 after publicly falling out with Arthur Griffiths. The Clubs enjoyed some initial success, and had the support of the likes of Michael Collins, Cathal Brugha and Rory O'Connor (who was in a relationship with the Count's daughter, Fiona), but then they merged with Sinn Féin, and Plunkett was sidelined in the new organisation (which was probably just as well).
 

PBP voter

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He lost the by-election.

Collins put a gun to the returning officers head and he changed his mind according to Tim Pat Coogan in his rubbish biography.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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He lost the by-election.

Collins put a gun to the returning officers head and he changed his mind according to Tim Pat Coogan in his rubbish biography.
I think that's a confusion with the South Longford by-election of 9th May 1917.

It was a straight fight between Patrick McKenna for the Irish Parliamentary Party and Joe McGuinness for Sinn Féin.

The count ended with McKenna just ahead. Then the versions diverge.

The "official" story is that, at the last moment before declaration, a bundle of uncounted votes was discovered. So there was a full-recount, and the result declared the following day:
McGuinness: 1498
McKenna 1461.
Sinn Féin majority of 37​

The "other" story is the half-memory by PBP voter, and indeed from Tim Pat Coogan, page 67:
Many years later, Alasdair MacCaba, by then the much-admired Chairman of the Irish Educational Building Society, gave me his version of how the discovery came about. 'I jumped up on the platform, put a .45 to the head of the returning officer, clicked back the hammer and told him to think again.'
 

McTell

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I was intrigued to find that Count wasn't a first name - like dook or barron - but he was made a papal count for giving money in 1884 to an english order just set up by

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Potter

who has a tram named after her.

So we call him An ************************a in the first official language.


Plunkett won the election but took the anti-treaty line in 1922, and never made it back to political reality...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_republican_legitimism#1938_.E2.80.93_Second_D.C3.A1il_to_Army_Council
 

McTell

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No
Sorry folks, an Cúnta has a fada
 

Éireann_Ascendant

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I was intrigued to find that Count wasn't a first name - like dook or barron - but he was made a papal count for giving money in 1884 to an english order
Indeed, and the title was what allowed him an audience with Pope Benedict XV a couple of weeks before Easter Week 1916 to ensure that His Holiness would not condemn the Rising. As Plunkett later explained some years later in an article to the Irish Press newspaper in 1933:
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.
Monsignor Michael J. Curran, secretary to Archbishop William Walsh of Dublin, was told about a somewhat less effusive pope by Plunkett when the Count returned to Dublin to tell Walsh of the meeting (which caught both Walsh and Curran by surprise):

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.
 

McTell

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No
. As Plunkett later explained some years later in an article to the Irish Press newspaper in 1933:

...

It does come across as makey-uppy after-he's-dead fanciful thinking.

Take the tamer but equally grovelling letter by Sean T O'Kelly to the very same pope benedict xv:

Memorandum by Sean T. O'Ceallaigh to Pope Benedict XV from Sean T O Ceallaigh to Pope Benedict XV - 18 May 1920 - Documents on IRISH FOREIGN POLICY


Benny hadn't got the message!


More than ninety per cent of our Parliament and its electors are Catholics - Catholics as deeply religious as any others in the world - and as generous and devoted to the Holy See as our martyred predecessors of the past. The Irish Hierarchy and clergy will bear witness to the truth of this statement, and their opinion can be easily ascertained just now when so many are in Rome for the beatification of one of the sufferers in the days of old. The lives and deaths of our deceased leaders and comrades of yesterday also justify this, as was doubtless made clear to Your Holiness by the late Rector of the Irish College in his statement on the Insurrection of 1916.

As practicing Catholics we have never allowed our national movement for independence to be contaminated by anti-religious or other dangerous movements condemned by the Church; yet we find that the continental press reproduces the calumnies fabricated in England, painting our struggle for bare liberty as a movement of anarchists.


 

Éireann_Ascendant

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It does come across as makey-uppy after-he's-dead fanciful thinking.

Take the tamer but equally grovelling letter by Sean T O'Kelly to the very same pope benedict xv:

Memorandum by Sean T. O'Ceallaigh to Pope Benedict XV from Sean T O Ceallaigh to Pope Benedict XV - 18 May 1920 - Documents on IRISH FOREIGN POLICY


Benny hadn't got the message!


More than ninety per cent of our Parliament and its electors are Catholics - Catholics as deeply religious as any others in the world - and as generous and devoted to the Holy See as our martyred predecessors of the past. The Irish Hierarchy and clergy will bear witness to the truth of this statement, and their opinion can be easily ascertained just now when so many are in Rome for the beatification of one of the sufferers in the days of old. The lives and deaths of our deceased leaders and comrades of yesterday also justify this, as was doubtless made clear to Your Holiness by the late Rector of the Irish College in his statement on the Insurrection of 1916.

As practicing Catholics we have never allowed our national movement for independence to be contaminated by anti-religious or other dangerous movements condemned by the Church; yet we find that the continental press reproduces the calumnies fabricated in England, painting our struggle for bare liberty as a movement of anarchists.


And we wonder how Ireland turned out the way it did...
 

Shiloh

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Was the son as religiously devout as the Count? I recall learning some of Joseph Mary's poetry in school which seemed drippingly redolent with blood sacrifice imagery. He did marry a Protestant though.
 

Éireann_Ascendant

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Was the son as religiously devout as the Count? I recall learning some of Joseph Mary's poetry in school which seemed drippingly redolent with blood sacrifice imagery. He did marry a Protestant though.
Grace Gifford was from a Protestant family, but she had converted by the time she married Joseph, the two having originally bonded over their shared interest in Catholicism:

I was desperately interested in the Catholic Church. I did not know a single person, to whom I could talk about the Church, until I discovered him [Joseph]; and then I talked to him. [Thomas] MacDonagh was rather irreligious, and Joe was his opposite; and I sat listening to their arguments. We practically talked about nothing else.
Grace Plunkett, Bureau of Military History, p. 15
 

McTell

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No
Grace Gifford was from a Protestant family, but she had converted by the time she married Joseph, the two having originally bonded over their shared interest in Catholicism:


I was desperately interested in the Catholic Church. I did not know a single person, to whom I could talk about the Church, until I discovered him [Joseph]; and then I talked to him. [Thomas] MacDonagh was rather irreligious, and Joe was his opposite; and I sat listening to their arguments. We practically talked about nothing else.

Grace Plunkett, Bureau of Military History, p. 15

Comes across as a whopper, as her Da Fred was Catholic all his life.
 

making waves

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It does come across as makey-uppy after-he's-dead fanciful thinking.

Take the tamer but equally grovelling letter by Sean T O'Kelly to the very same pope benedict xv:

Memorandum by Sean T. O'Ceallaigh to Pope Benedict XV from Sean T O Ceallaigh to Pope Benedict XV - 18 May 1920 - Documents on IRISH FOREIGN POLICY


Benny hadn't got the message!


More than ninety per cent of our Parliament and its electors are Catholics - Catholics as deeply religious as any others in the world - and as generous and devoted to the Holy See as our martyred predecessors of the past. The Irish Hierarchy and clergy will bear witness to the truth of this statement, and their opinion can be easily ascertained just now when so many are in Rome for the beatification of one of the sufferers in the days of old. The lives and deaths of our deceased leaders and comrades of yesterday also justify this, as was doubtless made clear to Your Holiness by the late Rector of the Irish College in his statement on the Insurrection of 1916.

As practicing Catholics we have never allowed our national movement for independence to be contaminated by anti-religious or other dangerous movements condemned by the Church; yet we find that the continental press reproduces the calumnies fabricated in England, painting our struggle for bare liberty as a movement of anarchists.


The note-worthy section of the above is where O'Kelly says that they wouldn't allow their movement become contaminated by 'anti-religious and other dangerous movements condemned by the Church'. O'Kelly of course was talking about communism which had a firm root in the country at the time and like the rest of the leaðership of SF he was willing to sacrifice all to prevent a socialist revolution in Ireland.
 

Roberto Jordan

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The note-worthy section of the above is where O'Kelly says that they wouldn't allow their movement become contaminated by 'anti-religious and other dangerous movements condemned by the Church'. O'Kelly of course was talking about communism which had a firm root in the country at the time and like the rest of the leaðership of SF he was willing to sacrifice all to prevent a socialist revolution in Ireland.
Not sure you could say a firm root.....there was an appetite for social change amongst some. But even incidents like the limerick soviet need to be reviewed in context of aping of the Russian revolution being the contemporary fashion and stylistic model for those involved in revolutionary change. Hell - even in Russia the communists did not have a firm root , rather an invasive branch.....
 

making waves

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Not sure you could say a firm root.....there was an appetite for social change amongst some. But even incidents like the limerick soviet need to be reviewed in context of aping of the Russian revolution being the contemporary fashion and stylistic model for those involved in revolutionary change. Hell - even in Russia the communists did not have a firm root , rather an invasive branch.....
The Bolsheviks had mass support from the working class and the peasantry during the revolutionary upheavals of 1917.

The Russian Revolution had huge support in Ireland - 10,000 attending a commemoration meeting in Dublin, hundreds of thousands of workers attending Mayday meetings in 1918 praising the Russian working class for achieving social, political and economic emancipation. Mass trade union based demonstrations against conscription (much bigger than those jointly organised by SF and the Catholic hierarchy) with a general strike forcing a government climb down. The Belfast Soviet of February 1919, the Limerick Soviet of April 1919, the Waterford Soviet of 1920 when the SF mayor handed control over the city to a 'People's Commissar', the general strike of 1920 when Red Guards patrolled the streets of Cork, Limerick, Tralee, Galway, Naas and many other towns, and more than 100 local Soviets and general strikes including the Munster Soviets April-August 1922.

To suggest that socialism did not have a 'firm root' is belied by the events of the period.
 

McTell

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No

Éireann_Ascendant

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Comes across as a whopper, as her Da Fred was Catholic all his life.
Huh, good point.

Maybe she and her dad weren't particularly close? Or it is too awkward to discuss such matters in a theologically-mixed household? Otherwise, it doesn't make much sense for Grace to lie on that particular point.
 


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