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George Plant

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  • George Plant

    George Plant was born on January 5th 1904 in St.Johnstown, Co.Tipperary,the second child in a family of nine. Three of the children died in infancy and George’s father, having developed an alcohol problem left the family and returned to his native Co.Wicklow. Catherine,his wife was left to raise the children and run an eighty acre farm alone.Not surprisingly the family had little time for politics.George attended primary school and then left to work the family farm full time.His conversion to the Republican cause came at the hands of the Royal Irish Constabulary one Sunday in 1916.George and his brother Jimmy were arrested and beaten by the police after attending church in the village of Fethard. Apparently they had been seen in conversation with a local Republican, Sean Hayes. The police wanted information on Hayes and another Volunteer, Dan Breen. The two boys developed a hatred of the police and joined the Irish Republican Army(IRA) in their late teens towards the end of the War of Independence.They were unusual members and probably unique in Tipperary at least in that they were Protestants and should have leaned towards the Unionist end of the political spectrum.

    The two brothers took the anti-treaty,Republican side in the Civil war though information is sketchy on their activities.They did however take part in an ambush which is locally famous as the Ambush on the Grey Ghost. The Grey Ghost was a name given to a Lancia armoured car which the National Army had fitted with railway wheels and used to patrol the railway line between the towns of Clonmel and Thurles. He is also reputed to have been the “executioner” of 7th Bn of the IRA. I take this to mean he was a Security or Intelligence Officer. After the Civil War (1923) the brothers fled Ireland for Canada and later the USA. They did return Ireland to conduct such missions as the IRA saw fit. In 1928 they were involved in a bank robbery in Tipperary town for which they were imprisoned. George returned to America on his release and finally returned home for good in 1938. He was still ann active member of the IRA.

    In the summer of 1940 an IRA man from Maudlinstown,Co.Wexford by the name of Michael Devereux, was arrested by the Garda Siochana. and after questioning was released without charge. Shortly afterwards some IRA arms dumps were discovered by the Gardai and Devereux was suspected of revealing their locations. IRA HQ in Dublin ordered that he be executed, in September 1940. Devereux’s Divisional Commander selected three men for the job, Michael Walsh from Kilmacow Co.Kilkenny, Paddy Davern from Grangemockler, Co.Tipperary and George Plant.

    The plan to kill Devereux could have been written in Hollywood.Called to a meeting with his Battalion Commander, Tom Cullimore, in Wexford, on the 19th of September, Devereux arrived to find Plant and Walsh waiting with the news that Cullimore had been killed and that the three of them had better leave Wexford immediately. Devereux drove into the night with his executioners towards Walsh’s home in Kilmacow. From there they moved on toward Grangemockler, arriving on the morning of the 24th. On the journey they convinced Devereux that he would be blamed for Cullimore’s death and that all three of them should go on the run after disposing of the motor car which would have been a rare commodity in 1940 Ireland. To this end they sheltered in the area for the next three days. Devereux must have been very naïve to fall for this deception and not to have suspected something in the week that his companions spent planning his execution.

    On the night of the 27th Plant, Davern and Devereux moved safe houses again, crossing the mountain of Slievenamon on foot. Not far up the side of the hill Plant ccused Devereux of being an informer. Devereux just had time to protest his innocence, Plant drew a pistol and shot him in the head. Devereux’s body was buried in a nearby pit and the grave camouflaged. The car was hidden in a hay stack on the farm of a William Phelan until the following March. When the Gardai broadcast an appeal for information on the whereabouts of Devereux the car was buried on the farm and an onion bed planted on top of it.

    Devereux’s disappearance might have remained a mystery but for another suspected informer. This time it was no less than Stephen Hayes, the IRA’s Chief of Staff. In the Spring of 1941 Hayes was arrested in Dublin and held in custody by members of the IRA’s Northern Command. After being court martialled and sentenced to death, Hayes confessed and agreed to write out the details of his activities in a bid to prolong his life. It was well worth the effort because he managed to escape and made immediately for Rathmines Garda station and turned himself in. It now seemed that Hayes was indeed an informer and was probably responsible for the acts for which Michael Devereux paid with his life. Hayes was a former Commanding Officer in Wexford and had ordered the execution of Devereux personally. Whether he was an informer or not George Plant was arrested shortly after Hayes handing himself in to the Gardai.

    The trial of George Plant for the murder of Michael Devereux opened in the Special Criminal Court on the 9th of December 1941. Sean McBride SC appeared for the accused. The case collapsed on the 11th because Plant’s companions refused to testify against him. Plant was acquitted but re-arrested under an Emergency Powers order issued on 30th December. Davern and Walsh were also arrested and all three were tried and sentenced to death by Military Tribunal. The sentences hande d down to Davern and Walsh were later commuted to life imprisonment. In fact they were released in early 1946 after four years in prison.

    George Plant was not so lucky. On the morning of March 5th 1942 he was escorted from Arbour Hill prison in Dublin to Portlaois Prison by military Escort. There he was executed by firing squad,He was philosophical about his fate. Before his execution he remarked to a prison warden that those who live by the gun,die by the gun. Before he left the prison he gave his sweater to a fellow prisoner with the remark that it wouldn't keep him warm much longer. After execution his body was interred in the prison grounds.His family received no notification of his impending execution and news of the execution was broadcast on national radio before they were officially informed.

    Though George Plant was not the only man to be executed under the Emergency Powers act, his is the most famous case because his treatment was grossly unfair,d espite the fact that he undoubtedly murdered a man who was in all likelihood innocent. The case is a stain on the history of the Irish system of justice because the forces of the state acted in the manner of the terrorists they were supposed to combat. By doing so they created a martyr for the IRA, a martyr who is still commemorated annually by a gathering and oration at his graveside in St.Johnstown churchyard where George Plant was re-interred in 1948.
    Say NO to violence against Women

    Originally posted by hedgehog
    My favourite moment was when the
    Originally posted by hedgehog
    red headed old dear got a smack on her ginger head

  • #2
    I believe that this incident is covered quite well in Fisk's "In Time of War".