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Capital Punishment in Independent IrelandA Social, Legal and Political History$
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David M. Doyle and Liam O'Callaghan

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620276

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620276.001.0001

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Capital Punishment in the Post-Civil War Years

Capital Punishment in the Post-Civil War Years

(p.31) Chapter 1 Capital Punishment in the Post-Civil War Years
Capital Punishment in Independent Ireland

David M. Doyle

Liam O’Callaghan

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines the application of the death penalty in the first ten years of the Free State. Historians to date have argued that the relatively high number of civilian executions in the early post-independence years was symptomatic of Cumann nGaedheal’s broader anxieties with issues of law and order. This chapter revises that assessment and argues that those convicted of murder in the civilian courts in these years were no more likely to have their sentence carried out than those convicted in subsequent eras. By closely examining the decision-making process leading to the execution or commutation of death sentences, particularly the role of judges and government officials, this chapter argues that the death penalty, as imposed by the ordinary courts, was an example of the government’s efforts to restore peacetime civilian norms to the criminal justice system and was not used to any political end.

Keywords:   Free State Ireland, Cumann na nGaedheal, judicial executions

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