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Crime, Violence and the Irish in the Nineteenth Century$
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Kyle Hughes and Donald MacRaild

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781786940650

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781786940650.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 02 August 2021

‘Why, it’s like a ’98 trial’: The Irish Judiciary and the Fenian Trials, 1865–1866

‘Why, it’s like a ’98 trial’: The Irish Judiciary and the Fenian Trials, 1865–1866

Chapter:
(p.131) 7 ‘Why, it’s like a ’98 trial’: The Irish Judiciary and the Fenian Trials, 1865–1866
Source:
Crime, Violence and the Irish in the Nineteenth Century
Author(s):

Richard A. Keogh

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781786940650.003.0008

This chapter focuses on the ‘Fenian trials’ of 1865–66. It challenges us to think beyond established ‘speeches from the dock’ narratives to consider the part played by the judiciary in the theatre of the court. While names such as Kickham, Luby, Rossa, and o’Leary will roll of the tongues of many today, fewer will recall a William Keogh, or a John David Fitzgerald, the two Catholic judges who presided over the special commission that tried the Fenian accused. There was much criticism at the time that the state had ‘packed the bench’, an accusation levelled with regularity throughout the nineteenth century. The essay gives due consideration to these claims. The appointments of Keogh and Fitzgerald were clearly political it suggests, and cites John Devoy’s assessment that all judges in Ireland were rewarded for political service rather than legal acumen. However, it concludes that the judges’ precise handling of the proceedings undermined attempts by the accused to challenge the legitimacy of the court and, ultimately, the Fenian trials show how perceptions of judicial partiality evolved over time.

Keywords:   Fenianism, Speeches from the Dock, Fenian Trials, William Keogh, Irish justice, Irish lawyers

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