George Noble Plunkett

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George Noble Plunkett
Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (1915) (14595894288).jpg
Minister for Foreign Affairs
In office
22 January 1919 – 26 August 1921
Preceded by New office
Succeeded by Arthur Griffith
Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann
In office
22 January 1919 – 22 January 1919
Preceded by Cathal Brugha
Succeeded by Seán T. O'Kelly
Teachta Dála
In office
December 1918 – June 1927
Constituency Leitrim–Roscommon North,
MP for Roscommon North
In office
Personal details
Born (1851-12-03)3 December 1851
Dublin, Ireland
Died 12 March 1948(1948-03-12) (aged 96)
Dublin, Ireland
Political party Sinn Féin
Spouse(s) Josephine Cranny
Children 7
Alma mater University of Dublin

Count George Noble Plunkett (Irish: An Cunta Pluincéad; 3 December 1851 – 12 March 1948) was a biographer, politician and Irish nationalist, and father of Joseph Plunkett, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916.[1]

Early life and family[edit]

Part of the prominent Irish Norman Plunkett family, which included Saint Oliver Plunkett (1629–1681), George's relatives included the Earls of Fingall - his great-grandfather George Plunkett (1750–1824) was "in the sixth degree removed in relationship" (fifth cousin) to the 8th Earl of Fingall - and the Barons of Dunsany, whose line had conformed to the Church of Ireland in the eighteenth century.[2] One of that line, Sir Horace Curzon Plunkett, had served as Unionist MP for South Dublin (1892–1900), but became a convinced Home Rule supporter by 1912 as an alternative to the partition of Ireland, and served as a member of the first Irish Free State Senate (1922–23).

Born in Dublin, Plunkett was the son of Patrick Joseph Plunkett (1817–1918), a builder, and Elizabeth Noble (Plunkett).[3] The family income allowed Plunkett to attend school in Nice, France, Clongowes Wood College and the University of Dublin. At Dublin he studied Renaissance and medieval art among other topics, ultimately graduating in 1884.[1] Plunkett spent much time abroad and throughout Italy.


In 1884 he was created a Papal Count by Pope Leo XIII for donating money and property to the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, a Roman Catholic nursing order.[4] He was a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.[5]

Marriage and issue[edit]

That year he married Josephine Cranny (1858–1944) and they had seven children: Philomena (Mimi, ca. 1886), Joseph (1887), Moya (Maria, ca. 1889), Geraldine (Gerry, ca. 1891), George Oliver (1895), Fiona (ca. 1896) and John (Jack, ca. 1897).[6] From 1907 to 1916 he was curator of the National Museum in Dublin.[7]

Political career[edit]

Plunkett's interest in politics likely came mostly through his sons, Joseph, George and John, and though it was following the execution of Joseph that he became radicalised, it is likely that Joseph swore him into the Irish Republican Brotherhood some time before the rising. His daughter Fiona, in an RTE interview in 1966 described how, In the months before the rising he went to Switzerland on behalf of the leaders of the rising, to try to make contacts with the Germans. Joseph, George and Jack were all sentenced to death following the Easter Rising, but George and Jack had their sentences commuted to 10 years penal servitude, and both were released in 1917.[8] At least two of his daughters, Philomena and Fiona, were involved in preparations for the Rising.[9] He was expelled from the Royal Dublin Society for his son's role in the Easter Rising.

The new politics was indebted to its youth wing's vocal support: they gathered in numbers at Carrick railway station to cheer on Plunkett's campaign. Amongst the crowds were the women of Cumann na mBan, "a big percentage of youth...large numbers of young men...[and] more curious still for those days, young women."[10] On 3 February 1917, in Sinn Féin's first parliamentary victory, Plunkett won the seat of Roscommon North in a by-election. After his election, the party made the decision to abstain from Westminster. In April 1917 he set up a 'Council of Nine' bringing all nationalists together under one banner. He continued to build up the Liberty League. In October 1917 the different groups were merged, under the newly elected Éamon de Valera, at the Sinn Féin Convention. The League of Women Delegates protested that there were only 12 women out of 1000 delegates; and only Countess Plunkett on the Council of Nine.[11] It was De Valera's genius to adopt a flexibility that incorporated Count Plunkett and other non-republicans. Their common aim was "an Irish government."[12] They intended to be active citizens taking part in the nomination of elections.[13]

He was re-elected in the 1918 general election and joined the First Dáil, in which he served briefly as Ceann Comhairle.[14] At the first public session, during a sober address given by Father O'Flanagan, Count Plunkett warned the small crowd not to cheer. The Catholicity of the meetings confirmed the divisions to unionist communities.[15] Nominally Count Plunkett was given the foreign affairs portfolio, owing to his seniority, but effectively Arthur Griffith conducted policy abroad.[16]

De Valera moved the Count to a Fine Arts portfolio in August 1921, in an effort to create an inner cabinet of only six; so a wholly new ministry was created for the purpose, "giving the appearance of stability and progressiveness to their affairs." De Valera's green modernism marginalized the old nobility, however Catholic and correct.[17]

Following the Irish War of Independence, Count Plunkett joined the anti-treaty side, and continued to support Sinn Féin after the split with Fianna Fáil.[18] He lost his Dáil seat at the June 1927 general election.[19] In a 1936 by-election in the Galway constituency, Plunkett ran as a joint Cumann Poblachta na hÉireann/Sinn Féin candidate. Losing his deposit, he polled only 2,696 votes (2.1%).[19] In 1938 he was one of the former members of the Second Dáil that purported to assign a self-proclaimed residual sovereign power to the IRA, when they signed the statement printed in the 17 December 1938 issue of the Wolfe Tone Weekly (see Irish republican legitimatism). He died at the age of 96 in Ireland.


  1. ^ a b Plunkett, George Noble
  2. ^ PLUNKET Lords of Fingall at Library Ireland
  3. ^ The Papal Count Plunkett Archived 2011-08-14 at the Wayback Machine. at
  4. ^ O'Connor Lysaght, D. R. (2004) "Plunkett, George Noble, Count Plunkett in the papal nobility (1851–1948)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, retrieved 8 June 2011
  5. ^ Notable Irish Members (Historic): George Noble Plunkett. Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. 
  6. ^ D. R. O'Connor Lysaght, 'Plunkett, Count George Noble', in Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  7. ^ George Plunkett's 1911 Census Form
  8. ^ Lawrence William White, 'Plunkett, George Oliver Michael', in Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  9. ^ Sawyer, Roger (1993). "We Are but Women": Women in Ireland's History. Routledge. pp. 87–88. ISBN 978-0-415-05866-7. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  10. ^ Irish Bureau of Military History WS 1770 (Kevin O'Shiel) cited in Townshend, "The Republic", p.23-4.
  11. ^ Margaret Ward, 'The League of Women Delegates and Sinn Fein', "History Ireland", Autumn 1996, pp.38-40.
  12. ^ Townshend, "The Republic" (Penguin, 2014), p.20.
  13. ^ Senia Paseta, "Nationalist Women in Ireland 1900-1918", (CUP 2014).
  14. ^ "Count Plunkett". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 11 February 2012. 
  15. ^ Arthur Mitchell, "Revolutionary Government in Ireland: Dáil Éireann 1919-22" (Dublin 1995), p.17.
  16. ^ Irish Bureau of Military History WS 825 (Leopold H.Kerney), cited in Townshend, p.69.
  17. ^ Mitchell, Arthur, "Revolutionary Government in Ireland: Dáil Éireann 1919-22" (Dublin 1995), p.304.
  18. ^ George, Count Plunkett profile
  19. ^ a b "Count George Plunkett". Retrieved 15 November 2009. 


COUNT PLUNKETT COLLECTION - National Library of Ireland.

  • Note-book of an eccentric philosopher - 1868.
  • IE UCDA P79. Papers of George Noble, Count Plunkett (1851–1948) Dates: 1888–1936, UCD .ARchives
  • Some Engravers in exile Illustrated, 1942, (2nd ed.1968) in The Capuchin Annual pp. 524–9.
  • Miscellaneous papers concerning Irish representation.
  • Letters by and to members of the Plunkett family concerning political affairs in 1916–1923.


  • Mitchell, Arthur, Revolutionary Government in Ireland: Dáil Éireann 1919-22 (Dublin 1995)
  • Sheehan, Aideen, 'Cumann na mBan: Policies and Activities', in David Fitzpatrick (ed.), Revolition? Ireland 1917-1923 (Dublin 1990)
  • Ward, Margaret, Unmanageable Revolutionaries: Women and Irish Nationalism (Dingle 1983)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Cathal Brugha
Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann
22 January 1919
Succeeded by
Seán T. O'Kelly
New office Minister for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Arthur Griffith