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Nationalist Families

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The Plunkett Family


Back L- R:  Mimi, Geraldine, Joseph, Moya

Front L- R: Jack, George, Fiona


Joseph and Fiona Plunkett were a wealthy Dublin couple who had seven children. Before the Rising they weren't active nationalists but did allow the IVF to train on their property and gave the use of a house to Cumann na mBán. They were imprisoned for a while after the Rising. Their three sons Joseph, George and Jack were sentenced to death. Joseph was executed but George and Jack had their sentences changed to Penal servitude. Their daughters Mimi, Geraldine and Fiona were active in Cumann na mBán and Mimi was active in the rising. After the Rising Count Plunkett became radical and was elected as a Sinn Fein TD. The family* were active in the War of Independence. The Plunketts were anti-treaty in the Civil War; George Jack and Mimi were imprisoned in the Civil War and again in later years for IRA activity. 

*apart from Moya Plunkett who wasn't a nationalist


The wealthy Giffords were unionists; Frederick was catholic and his wife Isabella a fiercly loyalist protestant.  They had twelve children and Isabella a formidable and bossy woman brought  them all up as Protestants. The six boys remained Protestant and unionist  while the six girls (Sidney, Nellie, Grace, Kate, Muriel, and Ada) became nationalist, five of them converting to Catholicism. They  were traitors in the eyes of their mother and their class.

The Gifford Family


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Nellie Gifford

The Gifford girls were bright, educated and independent. They helped the workers in the 1913 lockout and were involved in the suffragette movement and with Cumann na mBán. Many of the young men they met were republican.

Muriel was a member of Maud Gonne's republican women's group, Inghinidhe na hÉireann, and later Cumann na mBán. When her husband Thomas MacDonagh was executed she was left with two tiny children. In 1917 she died in a tragic drowning accident and for decades the two families fought over the children.


Nellie (a cookery teacher)  became involved with Countess Markievicz, Jim Larkin and James Connolly. and joined the Irish Citizen Army, She took part in the Rising.


Sidney (under the name John Brennan)  worked as a journalist for republican newspapers and was active in social and political causes throughout her life. 


Ada went to the USA and became involved in the Gaelic movement. 


Grace, the youngest of the three,  a talented artist who had studied in London wasn't involved in active nationalism before the Rising but contributed cartoons and drawings. She married Joseph Plunkett in Kilmainham Jail just hours before his execution. During the War of Independence and Civil War she used her artistic skills for propaganda. She was anti-treaty in the Civil War and was imprisoned. She spent decades in dispute with the Plunkett family over Joseph's estate finally getting money in 1935. 


Katherine Gifford wasn't in Ireland during 1916 but was active as a nationalist on her return in 1918. She was imprisoned during the Civil War.  

The Ryan Family


The Ryans were a nationalist Wexford family. John and Eliza Ryan had a large farm and twelve children, eleven of whom went to university.

Kit, a language professor was arrested in the 1916  Rising, she married a fellow republican Sean T. Kelly, in 1918.  They were active in the War of Independence and anti-treaty in the Civil War. Kit died aged 55 in 1934. Two years later Sean T. having received a dispensation from the pope married Kit's  younger sister Phyllis.  


Phyllis, a chemist, had also been active in 1916 in the GPO and in the War of Independence and was anti-treaty in the Civil War. Her husband Sean T. Kelly became  President of Ireland in 1945. Sean T. and Phyllis were together for thirty years until Sean's death in 1966. 

Nelly a teacher took part in the Rising and was active in the War of Independence, She was anti-treaty in the civil war, was imprisoned and went on hunger strike. She later became a Fianna Fail councillor.


Jim a medical student in 1916 was chief medical officer in the GPO. In  1919 he married Mairin Cregan a fellow republican, also active in 1916. They were both arrested in the War of Independence leaving a baby to be cared for by relatives. Jim was a member of the first Dail. They were anti-treaty in the Civil War and Jim was imprisoned. Later he was a Fianna Fail minister and senator.


Min a language teacher was a courier in the 1916 Rising and the sweetheart of Sean MacDiarmada whom she visited before his execution. In 1919 she married Richard Mulcahy  who was active in the War of Independence and pro-treaty in the Civil War, Her sister Kit urged her to leave Richard because of his pro-treaty stance and her sister Phyllis cut all ties with her. The family tried to get her to intervene when her sister Nelly was imprisoned (She didn't). 


Agnes, a teacher married IRB man Denis McCullogh who was arrested after the Rising and active in the War of Independence they were pro-treaty in the Civil War


Chris Ryan and her husband Michael were neutral in the civil war and acted as a bridge between the two sides.  In 1929 one of the Ryan siblings Fr Martin died and this helped bring about a reconciliation in the family. There seems to have been agreement that the bitterness of the Civil War would not be passed on to the next generation  and the families spent several summer holidays together in Wexford in the 1930s. 


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