100 YEARS AGO – EXECUTIONS

From May 2 – 16, 1916 there were 160 trials; 90 death sentences given (15 of those, including all seven signatories of the Proclamation had their sentences confirmed by Maxwell) and were executed by firing squad at Kilmainham Gaol. The bodies of those executed were never returned to their families as part of their punishment. Connolly was mortally injured from the fighting (a doctor said he had no more than a day or two to live, but the execution order was still given). As he was unable to stand before the firing squad; he was carried to a prison courtyard on a stretcher, and shot.

The actions of Maxwell had major repercussions. He ignored the shooting of civilians, when it was known that more civilians than combatants were killed. Over 3,500 people were arrested and prisoned, most of whom were not involved in the Rising. Nearly 2,000 men and women were deported to England. Maxwell tried the 15 leaders of the Rising by Field General Court Martial, a secret trial that did not allow a defense nor jury. All the leaders were sentenced to death and executed. The resulting outcry around the world caused British Prime Minister Asquith to halt the executions (in total 90 had been sentenced to death).

Before his death, Sean MacDiarmada wrote, “We bleed that the nation may live. I die that the nation may live. Damn your concessions England – we want our country.

In a letter to his mother, Padraig Pearse wrote, “You must not grieve for all this. We have preserved Ireland’s honour and our own. Our deeds of last week are the most splendid in Ireland’s history. People will say hard things of us now, but we shall be remembered by posterity and blessed by unborn generations.”

Upon his court martial sentence, Pearse exclaimed: “You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot extinguish the Irish passion of freedom. If our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom, then our children will win it by a better deed.”

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Webmaster of the Irish American Society
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