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sw63

George Oliver Plunkett - Why would he refuse to vouch for his 1916 gar

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sw63

Hi There,

Am just browsing through a document about pension applications for Liverpool Men in the IRA 1916-1922. There is a mention that George Oliver Plunkett, commander of the Kimmage Garrison during the Easter Rising, had a number of Liverpool volunteers (23) under his command. When asked to vouch for their actions during the Rising Plunkett refused "for personal reasons".

Does anyone know why he would do this?

Thanks,

Simon

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eairicbloodaxe

Well...

  • Perhaps he had a strong allegiance to his men?
  • Maybe they threatened him? (They were in the IRA, ater all)
  • Or he could have sympathised with them, so did what he could not to get involved?
  • Maybe he knew some were guilty, but did not want to be seen to turn them in?
  • Or he was concerned about the effect on his ability to command the remainder of the troops if they knew some of their mates were due in court because of his actions.
  • Or one of his relatives was amongst those he'd have to indict.
  • Or one of them was his boyfriend...
  • Or...

(Speculation over. I'd also love to know the truth now!)

Regards

Ian

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BrendanLee

As he took the Anti-Treaty side in the Civil War I suspect like others at the time he believed pensions and medals should not be awarded for a war that was not over.

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sw63

Thanks BLee, that makes sense.

Simon

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brianoleary82

As far as I know George Oliver Plunkett decided not to have anything to do with the pension scheme - he didn't even apply for a pension himself, though fully entitled to.

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Airshipped

Simon, on the matter of British-born Irish republicans and the Irish community in Britain generally, you're probably aware of the kidnapping of many members of the Irish Self-Determination League (ISDL) and their hand-over to the Irish authorities, a result of which many were subjected to torture and beatings by the security forces of the Irish Free State until (ah the irony) the British justice system rescued them!

The ISDL internees were represented by Patrick Hastings, who was of Irish ancestry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Hastings

A large number of the ISDL members had fought in WWI in various British and Irish regiments, and quite a few of them (including Art O'Brien) were English-born. Unlike their Irish-born republican counterparts, none were killed in Irish custody, though some were compensated for their injuries (e.g. a James Hickey from Glasgow had lost the hearing in his right ear) :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Self-Determination_League

Just one of those peculiar situations when trying to distinguish "Irish" veterans from WWI among the Irish community in Britain.

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sw63

Thanks KMcCabe - Regardless of whether you agree with what these men did in Dublin and Liverpool, Plunkett seems a bit of a d*ck if he wouldn't even confirm their names for the sake of his pride.

Thanks for the info Airshipped, I didn't know that but it made very interesting reading.

Simon

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brianoleary82

I see what you mean, but I think we sometimes forget that a man like George Plunkett had seen many of his friends and comrades tortured, murdered, or executed without trial during the civil war by the new Irish State. Whether he was on the right or wrong side (if we can talk about such black and white concepts), you can sort of understand from a human perspective why he might have decided to have nothing to do with the Irish State.

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Sinabhfuil

Airshipped, can you offer a link about this kidnap of ISDL people - I'd like to know more about it.

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Airshipped

Airshipped, can you offer a link about this kidnap of ISDL people - I'd like to know more about it.

This is straying a little from the history of the WW1 veterans, and therefore I'm conscious that the moderators may worry that it'll spiral off into a side-show.

The case "R versus Secretary of State for Home Affairs ex-parte O'Brien" is still cited in jurisprudence relating to habeas corpus proceedings. A nice summary is on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R_v_Secretary_of_State_for_Home_Affairs_ex_parte_O'Brien

A slightly dishonest article here (e.g. note the reference to "Irish agitators", which side-steps the fact of the majority being British-born).

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1111640?uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21103813068803

You can find the parliamentary debates on the 'Restoration of Order in Ireland (Indemnity) Act 1923' on Hansard.

http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1923/jun/04/restoration-of-order-in-ireland

This legislation essentially gave the British government a free pass on its actions, though the limitation of damages was still seen as coasting very close to the constitutional boundaries of the right of the courts to make determinations on issues of civil liberty. (Notwithstanding the kidnapping and deportation of British nationals by the British government, needless to say one could contrast the relatively favourable treatment of its republicans in Great Britain with how the Irish Free State/SaorState Éireann treated those loyal to the Republic of Ireland/Poblacht na hÉireann. On the other hand the Irish Free State still regarded itself as fighting for its existence and, inter alia, the existence of Northern Ireland and the Anglo-Irish Treaty, while the UK authorities faced no such threat).

At the end of the day there was something ironic in those parliamentarians whose families had limited wartime exposure being in the position of legislating to limit the rights of those who in many cases had served the Crown in the front lines.

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Khaki

Don't know too much about this guy, but the very nature of the conflict was such that to reveal or confirm names may have endangered people or at the very least opened them to possible criminal charges. I am only guessing but keeping your mouth shut is one of the first rules.

khaki

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sw63

Khaki - you would have a valid point except for one fact: witness statements were taken in the 1950s, so we're talking over thirty years later.

The purpose of the witness statements was to create an historical archive of first hand accounts of the War of Independence before the generation who fought in it had died-out. There was no threat of prosecution or retribution, statements were voluntary and did not affect pension status - plus the participants could ask for any names to be removed to protect themselves or others.

I think BLee's theory carries the most weight: Plunkett refused to co-operate on principle, as was his right. But his failure to confirm the names of those under his command in 1916 may possibly have meant these Liverpool men were denied Irish military pensions...

Cheers,

Simon

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Khaki

All good points, but sometimes the 'code of silence' amongst those sworn to secrecy has continued even unto death sometimes decades after the secrecy has been lifted or even has become common knowledge. Old habits die hard.

khaki

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BrendanLee

Having done some research into the pension applications I do not think Plunkett’s refusal to vouch for the men under his command had any bearing on them getting a pension. A pension applicant had to submit their claim with at least 3 references, each reference had to state they had seen the applicant in action during Easter Week. Although the commanding officer would have been the first choice for many applicants there are many applications where the commanding officer is not used.

I am a bit confused as to why they would be open to criminal charges and what is the code of silence?

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sw63

I do not think Plunkett’s refusal to vouch for the men under his command had any bearing on them getting a pension. A pension applicant had to submit their claim with at least 3 references, each reference had to state they had seen the applicant in action during Easter Week.

Yes - in most cases that is totally correct - but the situation with these Liverpool volunteers is somewhat different. I am only suggesting they may "possibly" have had problems getting a pension as a result. To be honest I don't know whether they did or didn't - but I do know that the Irish government were not in the habit of granting pensions to all and everyone. I do know that my own grandfather was refused a pension despite serving as an IRA volunteer on active service for at least two years from 1920 - 1922 and perhaps even longer.

In 1916, these Liverpool lads were rushed to the Kimmage Garrison where they were deployed among men unfamiliar to themselves and they may not have known the names of any upon which to rely years later to corroborate their stories. Not being native Irish, their stories would have required cast iron agreement from someone quite significant I would imagine.

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Stephen Plunkett

I’ve just discovered this thread. Just worth mentioning, re. all that pensions stuff, that George Plunkett, my grandfather, died accidentally on Jan 21st 1944 - he didn’t make it into the ‘safe’ 1950s. On the day of his death, he had just been released from house arrest, a status that had affected his life (and that of his family) considerably.

The pensions issue is not entirely clear but I understand people often didn’t sign up, all those years later, as they were, and had for a long time been, very much at loggerheads with the establishment and with many of their former colleagues. This ran deep and wide - it wasn’t a case of misguided pride in George Plunkett’s case where there was still a lot at stake.

We are nowadays more sanguine  about the bloodymindedness of various Irish civil servants over the years and in the early years of the new state this was undoubtedly true. I believe that there was, variously, an unwillingness to formally acknowledge certain former volunteers/combatants without some kind of gesture indicating that those people now accepted the new status quo. I think it must have felt to those ‘refuseniks’ like signing an oath of allegiance. This surely exacerbated the pensions dilemma. 

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