This chapter opens with a micro-history of the murder of Ellen O’Sullivan by David O’Shea in rural Cork in 1931; this case study is used to introduce some of the key themes of the book, particularly around the social history of capital punishment in Ireland. The chapter then outlines the history of capital punishment in Ireland in the nineteenth century before analysing, in detail, the executions carried out during the revolutionary period and the civil war, and the attendant legal proceedings. Political crime and emergency legislation would remain key themes in the history of capital punishment after independence. The chapter then outlines the legal and technical procedures associated with the death penalty in independent Ireland. This key contextual material sets the scene for the remainder of the book.
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