The Seven Signatories of the Proclamation
Éamonn Ceannt, member of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic and commandant of the 4th Battalion of the Irish Volunteers
Éamonn Ceannt (1881-1916) was born Edward Thomas Kent in the police barracks at Ballymoe, Co. Galway, the son of James Kent, an oﬃcer in the Royal Irish Constabulary, and his wife, Joanne Galway. James Kent was transferred to Ardee, Co. Louth, where Éamonn attended the De La Salle national school, becoming an altar boy—he remained a devout Catholic all his life. The family next moved to Drogheda, where he attended the Christian Brothers’ school at Sunday’s Gate. Finally, on the father’s retirement in 1892, the family settled in Dublin; there, Éamonn attended the O’Connell Schools on North Richmond Street run by the Christian Brothers, and University College, Dublin. He found employment with Dublin Corporation in the rates department and later the city treasury oﬃce.
Éamonn was deeply interested in Irish cultural activities, especially music. In 1899 he joined the central branch of the Gaelic League, where he met Patrick Pearse and Eoin MacNeill. He became a ﬂuent Irish speaker and adopted the Irish form of his name by which he was always known afterwards. He taught Irish part-time at various Gaelic League branches, gaining a reputation as an inspiring teacher. He played a number of musical instruments, the Irish war and uileann pipes being his particular favourites. In February 1900 he was involved with Edward Martyn in setting up the Dublin Pipers’ Club, of which he became secretary. He managed to procure a printing press on which he printed a journal, An Piobaire, designed to promote the club, the ﬁrst issue appearing on 5 July 1901. While leading a group of Irish athletes in Rome in 1908, he performed on the uileann pipes for Pope Pius X.
Ceannt had socialist sympathies and was involved in the unionisation of his fellow workers in Dublin Corporation, eventually becoming chairman of the Dublin Municipal Oﬃcers’ Association. His ﬁrst serious involvement in national politics, however, was in 1907 when he joined Arthur Griﬃth’s new political party, Sinn Féin, which opposed Home Rule, promoted the concept of national self-reliance, and aimed at national independence; he was eventually elected to the national council of Sinn Féin. It appears that he was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood by Seán MacDiarmada on 12 December 1912. On the foundation of the Irish Volunteers in November 1913, he was elected to the provisional committee, becoming involved in raising ﬁnance for the procurement of arms; he was present at both the Howth and Kilcoole importations.
Following the withdrawal of the National Volunteers under Redmond, Ceannt, Pearse and Plunkett were elected to key oﬃces in the Irish Volunteers, giving them virtual control. In addition, Ceannt became commandant of the 4th Battalion of the Dublin Brigade in March 1915. Soon after he was co-opted to the IRB Military Council. Many of the Military Council meetings took place at his house in Dolphin’s Barn.
On Easter Monday 1916, Ceannt and 120 men of the 4th Battalion of the Irish Volunteers, who reported for duty, occupied the South Dublin Union, a workhouse/ hospital spread over ﬁfty-two acres oﬀ James’s Street and also some covering buildings. They held part of the complex until they were informed of the general surrender the following Sunday.
Ceannt was tried by court-martial and executed by ﬁring squad in Kilmainham Jail on 8 May. Among his surviving relatives were his wife Áine O’Brennan, his young son Rónán, and his brother William, a colour sergeant-major in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers (British army) stationed in Fermoy, Co. Cork.