Plunkett, John Hubert (DNB00)

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PLUNKETT, JOHN HUBERT (1802–1869), Australian statesman, was the younger of the twin sons of George Plunkett of Roscommon and Miss O'Kelly of Tycooly, co. Galway. Born at Roscommon in June 1802, he was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated B.A. with some distinction in 1824. He was called to the Irish bar in 1826, and joined the Connaught circuit. He soon threw himself vigorously into politics; and, as a catholic whose family properties had been confiscated under penal laws, he earnestly advocated the catholic emancipation. To him was largely due the return to parliament of O'Connell's supporters, French and the O'Conor Don, for Roscommon in 1830—an admitted blow to the Orange party. In October 1831, though his prospects at the bar were encouraging, he accepted from Earl Grey the post of solicitor-general of New South Wales. In 1836 he combined the office with that of attorney-general. He had a seat ex officio in the old legislative council. In 1848 he became, in addition, chairman of the newly established National School Board.

In 1856, when responsible government was conceded to New South Wales, Plunkett resigned office and retired on a pension, but immediately stood for election to the new assembly, and was elected for two out of three constituencies where he was nominated. Sydney alone rejected him. He elected to sit for Argyle; but next year he resigned, and was appointed to the upper chamber, where he was elected president. In 1858, owing to a collision with the prime minister, Charles Cowper, his name was removed from the committee of education, and he temporarily retired from public life; but in 1863 he joined the Martin ministry as leader in the upper chamber. In 1865, owing to the mediation of friends, he joined the Cowper ministry as attorney-general, and remained in office till the ministry fell.

During his later life Plunkett lived chiefly in Melbourne, staying in Sydney during the session of parliament. He died on 9 May 1869 at Burlington Terrace, East Melbourne. A public funeral at Sydney was accorded him on 15 May.

Plunkett was a zealous Roman catholic, and in his last years was secretary to the provincial council of the Roman catholic church at Melbourne. He was a vice-president of Sydney University.

[Sydney Morning Herald, 11 May 1869; Heaton's Australian Dates; Mennell's Australasian Biography.]

C. A. H.