Peter Barnes (Irish republican)

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Peter Barnes (c. 1907 – February 7, 1940) was a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and, along with James Richards (also known as James McCormack), participated in the Coventry Explosion of 1939 which killed five people on August 25, 1939. Although he and McCormack admitted constructing the bomb, which was intended to be used to destroy a power station, they claimed not to be involved in planting the bomb.[1]

Seán MacBride, a former Chief-of-Staff for the IRA and Irish barrister, attempted to secure their release claiming they were being illegally held without a writ of habeas corpus.[2] However, charged with murder along with McCormack, Brigid O'Hara, Joseph and Mary Hewitt on December 12, all five pleaded not guilty before the court at Birmingham Assizes[3] (Brigid O'Hara issued statements between August 28 and September 4 to Scotland Yard and Birmingham police denying any knowledge of the bombings[4] and later provided evidence for the prosecution).[5] Found guilty of murder on December 15, Barnes and Richards were hanged at Winson Green Prison in Birmingham on February 7, 1940.[6] Their remains were flown to Dublin on July 4.

Their trial and execution resulted in a public outcry in Ireland against Neville Chamberlain and the British Government as Peadar O'Donnell and other prominent Irish writers signed a petition campaigning for leniency towards the condemned men.[7]

Further reading[edit]

  • Fairfield, Letitia. Trial of Peter Barnes and others: the I.R.A. Coventry explosion of 1939. William Hodge & Co., Ltd. 1953. ISBN 1-56169-184-4
  • "Ireland's Latest Martyrs, Peter Barnes and James McCormack 'Richards'". Irish World. 02 Mar 1940


  1. ^ Anderson, Brendan (2002). Joe Cahill: A Life in the IRA. O'Brien Press. p. 29. ISBN 0-86278-836-6. 
  2. ^ Coogan, Tim Pat. On the Blanket: The Inside Story of the IRA Prisoners' "Dirty" Protest. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. ISBN 0-312-29513-8 (pg. 38)
  3. ^ "Five Charged with Murder by Bomb".Irish Press. 12 Dec 1939
  4. ^ "Bomb Murder Charge. Belfast Woman's Statement Read". Irish Press. 13 Dec 1939
  5. ^ "Accused Man's Story in Bomb Murder Trial". Irish Press. 13 Dec 1939
  6. ^ Tarpey, Marie Veronica. The Role of Joseph McGarrity in the Struggle for Irish Independence. New York: St. John's University, 1969. (pg. 331)
  7. ^ Ó Drisceoil, Donal. "Peadar O'Donnell". Cork: Cork University Press, 2001. ISBN 1-85918-310-7 (pg. 107)

External links[edit]