George Noble Plunkett

George Noble Plunkett KCHS (3 December 1851 – 12 March 1948) was an Irish nationalist politician, museum director and biographer, who served as Minister for Fine Arts from 1921 to 1922, Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1919 to 1921 and Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann in January 1919. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1918 to 1927. He was a Member of Parliament (MP) for Roscommon North from 1917 to 1922.

George Noble Plunkett
Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (1915) (14595894288).jpg
Minister for Fine Arts
In office
26 August 1921 – 9 January 1922
PresidentÉamon de Valera
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Minister for Foreign Affairs
In office
22 January 1919 – 26 August 1921
PresidentÉamon de Valera
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byArthur Griffith
Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann
In office
22 January 1919 – 22 January 1919
DeputyJohn J. O'Kelly
Preceded byCathal Brugha
Succeeded bySeán T. O'Kelly
Teachta Dála
In office
August 1923 – June 1927
ConstituencyAugust 1923
In office
December 1918 – August 1923
ConstituencyLeitrim–Roscommon North
Member of Parliament
for Roscommon North
In office
3 February 1917 – 15 November 1922
Preceded byJames O'Kelly
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Personal details
George Noble Plunkett

(1851-12-03)3 December 1851
Dublin, Ireland
Died12 March 1948(1948-03-12) (aged 96)
Dublin, Ireland
Political partySinn Féin
Spouse(s)Josephine Cranny
(m. 1881; d. 1948)
Children7, including Joseph, George, and Fiona
Alma materUniversity of Dublin

He was the father of Joseph Plunkett, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916, as well as George Oliver Plunkett, Fiona Plunkett and John (Jack) Plunkett who also fought during the rising and subsequently during the Irish revolutionary period.[1]

Early life and familyEdit

Plunkett was 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 in France, then at Clongowes Wood College and the University of Dublin. In Dublin he studied Renaissance and medieval art, among other topics, ultimately graduating in 1884.[1] Plunkett spent much time abroad, primarily in 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 Commander of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.[5]

Marriage and issueEdit

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

Political careerEdit


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 (IRB) some time before the Rising. His daughter Fiona, in an RTÉ interview in 1966, described how in the months before the Rising he went to Switzerland on behalf of the IRB leaders 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 sons' role in the Rising.

Three weeks before the Rising Plunkett was dispatched to the Vatican to seek a private audience with Pope Benedict XV in the hope of getting the Pope's blessings. Plunkett reports that the Pope was moved by the religious symbolism of staging the Rising on Easter Sunday and persuaded him to give his "Apostolic Benediction" upon the rebels. When Plunkett once again travelled to the Vatican in 1920 Benedict XV congratulated Plunkett on his cabinet position.[10]

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."[11]

On 3 February 1917, running as an independent candidate, Plunkett won the seat of Roscommon North in a by-election. At his victory party in Boyle he announced his decision to abstain from Westminster. He called a Convention in the Mansion House in April 1917, where after some debate it was agreed to set up a 'Council of Nine' bringing all nationalists together under one banner. He continued to build up the Liberty League Clubs.[12]

The different groups were merged in October 1917, 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 1,000 delegates; and only Countess Plunkett on the Council of Nine.[13] 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".[14] They intended to be active citizens taking part in the nomination of elections.[15]

He was re-elected in the 1918 general election and joined the First Dáil, in which he served briefly as Ceann Comhairle.[16] At the first public session, during a sober address given by Father Michael O'Flanagan, Count Plunkett warned the small crowd not to cheer. The Catholicity of the meetings confirmed the divisions to unionist communities.[17]

Nominally Count Plunkett was given the foreign affairs portfolio, owing to his seniority, but effectively Arthur Griffith conducted policy abroad.[18] 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.[19]

1920s to 1930sEdit

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.[20] He lost his Dáil seat at the June 1927 general election.[21] 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%).[21] 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 legitimism).

Death and legacyEdit

He died at the age of 96 in Dublin.


  1. ^ a b "Plunkett, George Noble". Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 25 August 2007.
  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 4 September 2010.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Irish Bureau of Military History WS 1770 (Kevin O'Shiel) cited in Townshend, "The Republic", p.23-4.
  12. ^ "Plunkett's Gathering: Count Plunkett and His Mansion House Convention, 19th April 1917 (Part IV)". Éireann Ascendant. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  13. ^ Margaret Ward, 'The League of Women Delegates and Sinn Fein', "History Ireland", Autumn 1996, pp.38-40.
  14. ^ Townshend, "The Republic" (Penguin, 2014), p.20.
  15. ^ Senia Paseta, "Nationalist Women in Ireland 1900-1918", (CUP 2014).
  16. ^ "George Noble Plunkett". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  17. ^ Arthur Mitchell, "Revolutionary Government in Ireland: Dáil Éireann 1919-22" (Dublin 1995), p.17.
  18. ^ Irish Bureau of Military History WS 825 (Leopold H.Kerney), cited in Townshend, p.69.
  19. ^ Mitchell, Arthur, "Revolutionary Government in Ireland: Dáil Éireann 1919-22" (Dublin 1995), p.304.
  20. ^ George, Count Plunkett profile
  21. ^ 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 linksEdit

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