Seán McGarry (c. 2 August 1886 – 9 December 1958) was a 20th-century Irish nationalist and politician. A longtime senior member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), he served as its president from May 1917 until November 1918 when he was one of a number of nationalist leaders arrested for his alleged involvement in the so-called German Plot.
An active member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, McGarry was a close friend of Bulmer Hobson and was frequently arrested or imprisoned by British authorities for his activities with the IRB during the early 1900s. McGarry participated in the 1916 Easter Rising as an aide-de-camp to Tom Clarke and sentenced to eight years penal servitude for his role in the failed rebellion.
He was sent to Frongoch internment camp in Wales, but was eventually released. McGarry assisted Michael Collins in his efforts to reorganise the Irish Republican Brotherhood and, at the Volunteer Executive Meeting held in late 1917, he was elected General Secretary of the Irish Volunteers.
On the night of 17 May 1918, McGarry was arrested along with seventy-three other Irish nationalist leaders and deported to England and held in custody without charge. The day following their arrest, he and the others were charged with conspiring "to enter into, and have entered into, treasonable communication with the German enemy". In his absence, Harry Boland was selected for the Supreme Council and became his successor as president of the IRB.
He was only imprisoned a short time when he took part in the famous escape from Lincoln Jail with Seán Milroy and Éamon de Valera on 3 February 1919. He and Milroy had managed to smuggle out a postcard, a comical sketch of McGarry to his wife, allowing a copy of the key to their cell to be made. They were later assisted by Harry Boland and Michael Collins who awaited them outside the prison. A month later, McGarry gave a dramatic speech at a Sinn Féin concert held at the Mansion House, Dublin before going into hiding.
Throughout the Irish War of Independence, McGarry served as a commander and was eventually elected to Second Dáil in the 1921 elections as a Sinn Féin Teachta Dála (TD) representing Dublin Mid. He, like the majority of those in the Irish Republican Brotherhood, supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty and was involved in debates against de Valera during the controversy, most especially discussing the status of Sinn Féin as a political entity.
He was re-elected as a Pro-Treaty Sinn Féin TD in the 1922 general election, siding with the Free State government during the Irish Civil War. Liam Lynch and other members of the anti-Treaty IRA planned the assassination of McGarry among other TDs supporting the Public Safety Bill. As one anti-Treaty volunteer told Ernie O'Malley, "Seán McGarry was often drunk in Amiens St. and the boys wanted to shoot him and the Staters there but I wouldn't let them..."
On 10 December 1922, shortly before the first meeting of the Free State parliament, a fire was deliberately set by the Irregulars at his family home resulting in the death of his son. He was one of four others targeted by the anti-Treatyites during the December Free State executions. De Valera publicly denounced the attack.
McGarry was re-elected as a Cumann na nGaedheal TD in the 1923 general election for Dublin North. Dissatisfied and disillusioned with Cumann na nGeadhael, he resigned from the party after the Irish Army Mutiny and defected to Joseph McGrath's National Party. He resigned his seat in October 1924 and tried to retain his seat as a National Party candidate in the by-election but was defeated by Oscar Traynor.
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- Coogan, Tim Pat. De Valera: Long Fellow Long Shadow. London: Hutchinson, 1995.
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Irish Republican Brotherhood