Early life and IRA service
George Plant was born into a protestant Church of Ireland farming family in Fethard, the second eldest child and son in a family of six children. One Sunday in 1916 George and his older brother Jimmy were arrested by the RIC after being seen speaking to two well known Republicans, Seán Hayes and Dan Breen. In custody the two brothers were beaten and mistreated; they both developed a hatred of the RIC. George served with the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence and with the Anti-Treaty IRA in the Irish civil war.
In 1923 George and his brother Jimmy left Ireland for Canada and the United States but continued as active IRA members. In 1929 they returned to Ireland and carried out a bank raid in Tipperary town on behalf of the IRA. They were arrested two days later at the family farm and subsequently sentenced to 7 years in prison. They were released in a general amnesty after Fianna Fáil and Éamon de Valera election victory in 1932. George was a strong supporter of Seán Russell. In 1939 following the outbreak of World War II, known in Ireland as The Emergency, Éamon de Valera was determined to maintain Irish neutrality and was not going to allow the IRA to jeopardize this. The IRA links with Germany and campaign in Britain were severely straining Anglo-Irish relations so emergency legislation was introduced.
Sean Russell, the IRA Chief of Staff, died in August 1940 after taking ill on board a U-boat and Stephen Hayes from Co Wexford became IRA chief of staff. In late August 1940 an address on Landsdowne Road Dublin was raided by the Garda Síochána. Among the men arrested was Michael Deveraux, a 24-year-old married truck driver from Co. Wexford who was also Quartermaster of the IRAs Wexford Brigade of the IRA. He was released after three days without charge. Shortly afterwards Gardaí in Co Wexford found an IRA arms dump. Many in the IRA suspected that Deveraux had turned informer, so Stephen Hayes ordered Deveraux's execution. George Plant and another man, Michael Walsh from Co Kilkenny, were ordered to carry out the order. Michael Deveraux met Plant and Walsh who told Deveraux that Tom Cullimore, the Wexford Brigade's OC was blamed for the arms dump and that Plant and Walsh had shot him. They ordered Deveraux to drive them to an IRA Safe house at Grangemockler in South Co. Tipperary. Deveraux, believing he was the prime suspect in a murder, stayed willingly at the safe house. A week later, on 27 September 1940, Deveraux was invited to go for a walk with George Plant and Paddy Davern, the owner of the safe house. Somewhere along the walk Plant accused Deveraux of being an informer and shot him dead. George Plant was arrested nine weeks later on suspicion of IRA membership and brought before the Special Criminal Courtin Dublin. On 10 February 1941 Radio Éireann broadcast a radio appeal for Michael Deveraux on behalf of his wife.
Trials and execution
In September 1941 Stephen Hayes was himself accused of being an informer by a group of Northern IRA members led by Seán McCaughey. Hayes managed to escape to a garda station. Shortly afterwards a large force of Gardaí and Irish Army descended on the area around the Davern farmhouse where they found Deveraux's car buried under an onion bed and eventually discovered Deveraux's body, a year to the day after his death. Two weeks later, George Plant, already in prison on IRA membership charges, was charged with Deveraux's murder. A trial was held with a senior IRA officer Joseph o'Connor also charged with Deveraux's murder. The first trial collapsed after two days when Paddy Davern and Micheal Walsh, two of the prosecution witnesses, refused to give evidence. This result led to the court issuing a Nolle prosequi order which should have meant the end of the affair, however both men were rearrested and recharged with the same offence, under Emergency Order 41f. Justice minister Gerald Boland transferred the case to a Special Military Court with army officers acting as judges. In addition to Plant, Paddy Davern and Michael Walsh were also now charged with Deveraux's murder. The second trial began at Collins Barracks, Dublin in February 1942 with Seán MacBride, a former IRA Chief of Staff and future government minister as the defendant's barrister. The rules of evidence were bent to ensure the men were convicted. Davern stated his original statement was given at gunpoint but under the new order even statements given under duress were admissible. The court only had two sentencing options; death or acquittal. Joeseph O'Connor was acquitted and despite MacBride's best efforts the other 3 were sentenced to death. Davern and Walsh had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment, and were both released in 1946, Just one week after sentence was passed, George Plant was executed in Portlaoise Prison by a six-man firing squad drawn from the Irish army. Much bitterness was caused by the treatment of George Plant's relatives; Neither his wife or mother or infant son were allowed to visit him in the week before his execution. His family only learned of his execution from a brief radio broadcast before they received a telegram, censorship ensured there was little mention in the newspapers. Plant was buried in the grounds of Portlaoise Prison, but was reinterred in 1948, when he was buried with full IRA military honours in his local church St Johnstown in Co Tipperary, and a Celtic cross was erected over his grave. His wife moved to the US where she remarried. George's brother Jimmy died in London in 1978. The Plant's family farm is now part of the Coolmore Estate.
- Joe Kenny. "Centenary Lecture for executed IRA man George Plant". Fethard.com. Retrieved 2012-11-29.
- "George Plant (1904-1942) - IRA Executioner". Turtle Bunbury. Retrieved 2012-11-29.