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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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The Shadow of Subversion

The Shadow of Subversion

(p.201) Chapter 6 The Shadow of Subversion
Capital Punishment in Independent Ireland

David M. Doyle

Liam O’Callaghan

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines the abolition of the death penalty in Ireland. The Criminal Justice Act 1964, introduced by the Minister for Justice and staunch abolitionist Charles Haughey, removed the death penalty for all offences apart from murder committed under certain circumstances. Among these was murder of an on-duty member of the Garda Síochána, who, the government decided, warranted the additional protection assumed to be afforded them by the death penalty. The legislation was grounded in lingering fears, as old as the state itself, about anti-state subversive activities, mainly those likely to be carried out by the IRA. In light of this, the chapter compares the abolition experiences of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. That the death penalty was a dubious deterrent under the southern legislation was proven by a spate of garda murders (and resultant death sentences) in the 1970s and 1980s perpetrated by individuals specifically targeted by the 1964 Act. The potency of the 1964 Act was also undermined by the singular unwillingness of any Irish government even consider confirming a death sentence, especially in light of the abolitionist consensus among western European governments.

Keywords:   Criminal Justice Act 1964, Charles Haughey, An Garda Síochána, Northern Ireland, IRA

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