Seán Mac Diarmada
Seán Mac Diarmada
|Born||27 January 1883|
Kiltyclogher, County Leitrim, Ireland
|Died||12 May 1916 (aged 33)|
Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, Ireland
|Allegiance||Irish Republican Brotherhood|
|Years of service||1913–1916|
|Rank||Supreme Council IRB|
Military Committee IRB
|Other work||Educator, principal, barrister, republican activist, poet|
Seán Mac Diarmada (27 January 1883 – 12 May 1916), also known as Seán MacDermott, was an Irish republican political activist and revolutionary leader. He was one of the seven leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916, which he helped to organise as a member of the Military Committee of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and was a signatory of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. He was executed for his part in the Rising at age 33.
Brought up in rural County Leitrim, he was a member of many associations which promoted the cause of the Irish language, Gaelic revival and Irish nationalism in general, including the Gaelic League and (early in his career) the Irish Catholic fraternity the Ancient Order of Hibernians. He was national organiser for Sinn Féin, and later manager of the newspaper Irish Freedom, started in 1910 by Bulmer Hobson and others.
Mac Diarmada was born John MacDermott in Corranmore, close to Kiltyclogher in County Leitrim, an area where the landscape was marked by reminders of poverty and oppression. His father Donald McDermott was a member of the IRB and a friend of John Daly.
Surrounding Mac Diarmada in rural Leitrim, there were signs of Irish history throughout the area. There was an ancient sweat-house, Mass rocks from the penal times and the persecutions of the 17th and 18th centuries, and deserted abodes as an aftermath of the hunger of the 1840s.
He was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers. In 1908 he moved to Dublin, by which time he already had a long involvement in several Irish separatist and cultural organisations, including Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Gaelic League. He was soon promoted to the Supreme Council of the IRB and eventually elected secretary. He originally refused to join the IRB as it was condemned by the Catholic church but Bulmer Hobson convinced him otherwise.
In 1910 he became manager of the radical newspaper Irish Freedom, which he founded along with Bulmer Hobson and Denis McCullough. He also became a national organiser for the IRB, and was taken under the wing of veteran Fenian Tom Clarke. Indeed, over the year the two became nearly inseparable. Shortly thereafter Mac Diarmada was stricken with polio and forced to walk with a cane.
In November 1913 Mac Diarmada was one of the original members of the Irish Volunteers, and continued to work to bring that organisation under IRB control. In May 1915 Mac Diarmada was arrested in Tuam, County Galway, under the Defence of the Realm Act 1914 for giving a speech against enlisting into the British Army during the First World War.
Following his release in September 1915, he joined the secret Military Committee of the IRB, which was responsible for planning the rising. Indeed, Mac Diarmada and Clarke were the people most responsible for it. Mac Diarmada, like the rest of the signatories of the proclamation believed a "blood sacrifice" was necessary. In 1914 he said "the Irish patriotic spirit will die forever unless a blood sacrifice is made in the next few years.”
Due to his disability, Mac Diarmada took little part in the fighting of Easter week, but was stationed at the headquarters in the General Post Office (GPO), as one of the Provisional Republican Government. Following the surrender, he nearly escaped execution by blending in with the large body of prisoners. He was eventually recognised by Daniel Hoey of G Division. Following a court-martial on 9 May, Mac Diarmada was executed by firing squad on 12 May at the age of 33.
In September 1919 Hoey was shot dead by Michael Collins's Squad. Likewise, the British Officer Lee-Wilson, who ordered Mac Diarmada to be shot, rather than imprisoned, was also killed in Cork on Collins's order during the Irish War of Independence. Mac Diarmada had been in regular correspondence with Nell Ryan.
In his final letter he wrote: "Miss Ryan, she who in all probability, had I lived, would have been my wife". "Min" Josephine Ryan and her sister, Phyllis, had been couriers to the GPO. They also visited Kilmainham Gaol, before his execution, and managed to evade arrest. Min, a founder of Cumann na mBan, managed to escape from Ireland to America; she later married Richard Mulcahy.
Before his execution, Mac Diarmada wrote, "I feel happiness the like of which I have never experienced. I die that the Irish nation might live!”
Seán MacDermott Street in Dublin is named in his honour. So too is Sligo Mac Diarmada railway station in Sligo, and Páirc Sheáin Mhic Dhiarmada, the Gaelic Athletic Association stadium in Carrick-on-Shannon. Sean MacDermott tower in Ballymun, demolished in 2005, was also named after him. In his hometown of Kiltyclogher a statue inscribed with his final written words – see above – was erected in the village centre, his childhood home has become a National Monument. 
Leitrim native Seán Fox portrayed Mac Diarmada in RTÉ's 2016 series Rebellion.
- 16 Lives: Sean MacDiarmada, Brian Feeney (2014)
- "Seán MacDiarmada" (PDF). The 1916 Rising: Personalities and Perspectives. National Library of Ireland. 2006. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
- MacAtasney, Gerard (2004). Seán MacDiarmada: the mind of a revolution. Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim: Drumlin. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-873437-31-5.
- 16 Lives:Sean MacDiarmada. p. 36.
- Cormac O'Grada, "The Great Irish Potato Famine", vol VII, Irish Social and Economic History (1995), p. 57.
- 16 Lives: Sean MacDiarmada.
- S McCoole, "No Ordinary Women", p.30.
- Murphy, William. Political Imprisonment and the Irish, 1912-1921. 2014: Oxford University Press. p. 38. ISBN 0191651265. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
- S McCoole, "No Ordinary Women", p.35.
- "Putting the language of Pearse in context: Blood Sacrifice and 1916". independent.ie.
- Others in the Government who were executed were: Pearse, Clarke, Plunkett, Connolly, MacDonagh, and Ceannt. S McCoole, "No Ordinary Women", p.47.
- James Mackay, "Michael Collins: A Life", p.135.
- "Eight Women of the Easter Rising", New York Times, 16 March 2016.
- Piaras F Mac Lochlainn, "Last Words", Dublin, (The Stationery Office, 1990), p.170.; McCoole, p.54.
- Richard Mulcahy, "Richard Mulcahy (1886-1971) A Family Memoir", (Dublin, Aurelian Press 1999), p. 275; McCoole, p.54.
- Lochlainn, p.171.
- http://www.archaeology.ie/en/NationalMonuments/SearchByCounty/FileDownload,305,en.pdf[permanent dead link] National Monuments in County Leitrim
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