Sean MacDermott, (Sean MacDiarmada) was an Irish political activist, journalist, writer and volunteer soldier. He is best known as one of the seven leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916, which he helped to orchestrate as a member of the Military Committee of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and was a signatory of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. He was one of the leaders executed for his part in this at the age of thirty-three.

Raised in rural County Leitrim, he took part in many associations which promoted the cause of the Irish language, Gaelic revival and Irish nationalism in general, including the Gaelic League and the Catholic fraternity the Ancient Order of Hibernians. He was one of the formative members of Sinn Féin and as part of this was a founding journalist with the Irish Freedom publication, alongside Bulmer Hobson. After joining the Irish Republican Brotherhood, he became a protégé of veteran nationalist Tom Clarke.

Early life

Mac Diarmada was born in Corranmore, close to Kiltyclogher in County Leitrim,[1] an area where the landscape was marked by reminders of poverty and oppression.[2]

Surrounding Mac Diarmada in rural Corranmore, north 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.[2] 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 organizations, 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.

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 organizer 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 organization under IRB control. In May 1915 Mac Diarmada was arrested in Tuam, County Galway, under the Defense of the Realm Act for giving a speech against enlisting into the British Army.

Easter Rising

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. Following the surrender, he nearly escaped execution by blending in with the large body of prisoners. He was eventually recognized by Daniel Hoey of G Division. Following a court-martial on May 9, Mac Diarmada was executed by firing squad on May 12 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.

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!”.

Commemoration

Seán MacDermott Street in Dublin is named in his honour. So too is Mac Diarmada rail 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 enscribed with his final written words - see above - was erected in the village centre, his childhood home has become a National Monument.