Maolra Seoighe

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Maolra Seoighe, taken from prison, 1882.

Maolra Seoighe (English: Myles Joyce), Cappancreha, County Galway, was a Gaeltacht man who was convicted and wrongfully hanged on December 15, 1882. He was found guilty of the Maamtrasna Murders and was sentenced to death. The case was heard in the English language, though Maolra understood only Irish. He was pardoned in 2018.[1][2]

Maamtrasna murders[edit]

Joyce was the most prominent figure in a controversial trial in 1882 that took place while Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. Three Irish language speakers were condemned to death for the murder of a local family (John Joyce, his wife Brighid, his mother Mairéad, his daughter Peigí and son Micheál) in Maamtrasna, on the border between County Mayo and County Galway. It was presumed by the authorities to be a local feud connected to sheep rustling and the Land War. Eight men were convicted on what turned out to be perjured evidence[3] and three of them condemned to death: Myles Joyce (a father of five children), Pat Casey and Pat Joyce.

The court proceedings were carried out in a language they did not understand (English), with a solicitor from Trinity College, Dublin, who did not speak Irish.[3] The three were executed in Galway by William Marwood for the crime in 1882. The role of John Spencer, 5th Earl Spencer, who was then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, is the most controversial aspect of the trial and is what makes most modern scholars count it as a miscarriage of justice; research carried out in the British archives by Seán Ó Cuirreáin, has found that Spencer "compensated" three alleged eyewitnesses to the sum of £1,250, equivalent to €157,000 (by 2016 rates).[3]

To date, the Spencer family and the British government have issued no apology and pardon for the executions. Though the case has been periodically taken up by various political figures. Contemporary to the time, Timothy Harrington, MP for Westmeath, took up the case, claiming that the Crown Prosecutor for the case George Bolton, had deliberately withheld evidence from the trial. In 2011, the two sitting members of the British House of Lords, David Alton and Eric Lubbock from the Liberal Democrats, requested a review of the case. Crispin Blunt, Tory Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Prisons and Youth Justice, stated that Joyce was "probably an innocent man", but that he would not be seeking an official pardon.[3]

On April 4th 2018 Michael D. Higgins, the President of Ireland, issued a pardon on the advice of the current government of Ireland saying “Maolra Seoighe was wrongly convicted of murder and was hanged for a crime that he did not commit.”[4] It is the first presidential pardon relating to an event predating the foundation of the state in 1922[5] and the second time a pardon has been issued after an execution.[4]

Media[edit]

In September 2009, the story featured on RTÉ's CSI programme under an episode entitled CSI Maamtrasna Massacre.[6] A dramatised Irish-language film regarding the affair, entitled Murdair Mhám Trasna, produced by Ciarán Ó Cofaigh was released by in 2017.[7][8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Frances, Mulraney (5 April 2018). "Innocent Irish man pardoned almost 140 years after he was hanged for murder". IrishCentral. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  2. ^ "Maamtrasna murders: a shameful episode finally laid to rest". The Irish Times. 7 April 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d "A wrongful hanging in Connemara, 1882". The Irish Times. 20 May 2016.
  4. ^ a b Fortin, Jacey (2018-04-06). "Hanged After a Trial He Couldn't Understand, and Pardoned 136 Years Later". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  5. ^ "Pardon granted to man executed over Mám Trasna murders". RTÉ.ie. 4 April 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  6. ^ "Maamtrasna murders to feature in RTE documentary". Mayo News. 21 September 2009.
  7. ^ "ROSG Docu-Drama 'Murdair Mhám Trasna' directed by Colm Bairéad Filming this Week". IFTN. 24 April 2017.
  8. ^ "Reconstruction of Galway murder hangings for TG4". The Irish Times. 2 May 2017.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Waldron, Jarlath (1992). Maamtrasna: The Murders and the Mystery. Edmund Burke Publisher. ISBN 0946130078.

External links[edit]