"We Have To Take The Initiative And Act First"

Geraldine Dillon was the younger sister of Joseph Plunkett. In this interview she describes what Joseph was like when he was younger, he had a huge interest in military strategy from an early age. Joseph and his brothers George and Jack used to play war games which lead to him reading more and more about military strategy and tactics. By the time he joined the Irish Volunteers he had studied all the British military manuals so that if they did strike against them they would know what to expect. As he explained

They would be bound by their own rules. They would act according to the rules so you could know what they would do.

He used the knowledge he had gained to plan the strategy and tactics that would be employed in the event of a Rising. These very same plans were adopted by the Military Council of the IRB for the Easter Rising.

Through Joseph, Geraldine got to know many of the leaders of the Rising. The family were very close to Thomas MacDonagh who had taught Joseph and his sister Moya maths at their home, and very quickly MacDonagh and Joseph became very good friends. Patrick Pearse she says was 'one of the most impressive people I have ever come across...I never heard anyone like him.' Geraldine describes Seán MacDiarmada as 'the most loveable person I have ever come across'. She also states that Joseph greatly admired James Connolly. 

Joseph had suffered with illness since he was a child and as a result he was kept at home or sent abroad for treatment. This time he used to expand his interests, he learned how to play the violin, he wrote poetry and of course he read.

Geraldine was engaged to Thomas Dillon, a member of the Irish Volunteers. On Easter Sunday 23 April, there was meant to be a double wedding in the Plunkett household, Geraldine was to marry Thomas and Joseph was to marry his fiancé Grace Gifford. However the Easter Rising was due to take place on that very same day and as Geraldine recalls Eoin McNeill's countermanding order cancelling the manoeuvres changed everything.

Although Joseph and Grace did not marry that day, Joseph insisted that Geraldine and Thomas get married.  The newly weds spent their wedding night in the Imperial Hotel opposite the GPO. Geraldine saw Joseph who was staying in the Metropole Hotel and discussed what was going to happen. She thought the Rising was not going ahead. Joseph explained they had to proceed with their plans.

We couldn't go on on the run, that was disastrous before and it mustn't be done again... We have to take the initiative and act first and do it at once.

From her room in the Imperial Hotel, Geraldine witnessed the takeover of the GPO on Easter Monday and not only did she see the Volunteers barricade the building but she also witnessed Pearse reading the Proclamation.

He was noticeably head and shoulders above the others around him. 

Soon after the Volunteers took over the GPO, Geraldine saw her brother out on the street. As part of his plans for the Rising, the streets all over the city were to be barricaded, limiting troop movement. A tram was commandeered in Talbot Street/North Earl Street to be used in such a barricade, but the Volunteers could not get the tram on its side. Geraldine remembers

Joe put a bomb on the tram and he shot it from a good distance off and the tram was wrecked.

This was the last time she saw Joseph. He was executed in Kilmainham Gaol on 4 May. He was given permission to marry Grace Gifford shortly before his death.

Geraldine Dillon was interviewed for the RTÉ Television project 'Portraits 1916' on 20 November 1965.