Remembering Seán Mac Diarmada
The Irish Revolutionary Seán Mac Diarmada was executed by firing squad in Kilmainham Gaol, this day in 1916.
Seán Mac Diarmada was born John MacDermott in Corranmore on January 27th 1883, 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.
Mac Diarmada 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 separatists and cultural organisations, including Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Gaelic League.
Mac Diarmada was soon promoted to the Supreme Council of the IRB and eventually elected secretary. He initially 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 after that 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.
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 vast body of prisoners. Daniel Hoey of G Division eventually recognised him.
Mac Diarmada was court-martialed and sentenced to death and brought to Kilmainham Gaol. 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!"
On the morning of May 12th 1916, Seán Mac Diarmada aged 33 was executed by firing squad in Kilmainham Gaol.
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.
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.
Fuair sé bás ar son saoirse na hÉireann