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8 December 1922: The Mountjoy executions

Read Seán Enright’s essay on “State Executions during the Irish revolution” on Century Ireland.

Ireland 1922, edited by Darragh Gannon and Fearghal McGarry, features 50 essays from leading international scholars that explore a turning point in history, one whose legacy remains controversial a century on. Building on their own expertise, and on the wealth of recent scholarship provoked by the Decade of Centenaries, each contributor focuses on one event that illuminates a key aspect of revolutionary Ireland, demonstrating how the events of this year would shape the new states established in 1922. Together, these essays explore many of the key issues and debates of a year that transformed Ireland.

In collaboration with Century Ireland, we are making the 50 essays freely available online. Today’s essay is by Seán Enright and it covers the executions which took place at Mountjoy.

The execution without trial of Rory O’Connor, Liam Mellows, Richard Barrett and Joe McKelvey on 8 December 1922 at Mountjoy Prison was one of the most notorious events of the Irish civil war. It should be understood within the context of the Irish Free State government’s execution policy, and also as part of the wider resort to executions by British governments throughout the revolutionary period. By the autumn of 1922 the financial cost of the civil war was edging the country towards bankruptcy. At the request of the Provisional Government, the National Army issued a proclamation that, after 15 October, persons ‘taken in arms’ or ‘attacking National Army troops’ would be tried by military court and ‘suffer death’. The first executions soon followed, and a legal challenge to the military courts failed. Continue reading (you will be redirected to the website of Century Ireland)

Ireland 1922, edited by Darragh Gannon and Fearghal McGarry, is published by the Royal Irish Academy with support from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media under the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 programme. Watch an address by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, T.D. to mark the publication of this book (30 November 2022).


Ireland 1922