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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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Community, Respectability and Sanity

Community, Respectability and Sanity

(p.138) Chapter 4 Community, Respectability and Sanity
Capital Punishment in Independent Ireland

David M. Doyle

Liam O’Callaghan

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines, in-depth, the circumstances of individual crimes and perpetrators and how perceptions of these influenced the reprieves process. The varied materials gathered by the Department of Justice when reprieves were considered included correspondence from prison authorities, trial judges, doctors of varying expertise, petitioning letters from various institutions and individuals, and Garda reports. Through a close examination of these materials, this chapter argues that narratives around community, sexual morality, respectability, sanity and the conflation of all of these issues heavily influenced decision-makers’ perceptions of cases. Yet the degree to which these perceptions determined whether or not an individual under sentence of death was executed is difficult to determine and though these cases often caused revulsion among those in decision-making positions, it seems probable that the prerogative of mercy was applied in a sincere effort to objectively judge each case on its own circumstances. There was no conscious tendency to allow extraneous considerations such as class, gender and sexual morality to bear too heavily on cases.

Keywords:   class, gender, sanity, community, prerogative of mercy

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