The Judge placed the black cap on his head and a deep silence filled the courtroom.
And may the Lord have mercy on your soul."
There was a stunned silence before hesitant applause broke out.
This was probably the most moving moment at the launch of a book by Seán Ó Cuirreáin, "Éagóir - Maolra Seoight agus dúnmhairithe Mhám Trasna." A meticulously researched account of the most horrifying murder of almost every member of a family in a remote part of what was then North Galway and the subsequent trial and conviction of neighbours and relations. These events attracted such interest far and wide that it eventually contributed in no small measure to the downfall of the British Government of William Gladstone.
The book launch was made more poignant by the fact that it occurred in the actual courtroom in which these men, most of whom were unable to comprehend what was going on. They had no English, nor any knowledge of the British legal process.
The historic courthouse which saw the trials of Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet and John Mitchell now saw these eight men arraigned before a hostile legal system which made little or no effort to understand the position of these "wretched Irish-speaking creatures" - to use the words of Defence counsel.
|The sole witness dismissed without telling his story!|
A former Minister for the Gaeltacht, Éamon Ó Cuív spoke of the injustice that lead to the hanging of Maolra Seoighe (Myles Joyce), an injustice visited to a lesser extent in terms of result but nevertheles a State inflicted injustice familiar to Irish speakers to this day. He drew a comparison between the last recorded words (translated) of Myles Joyce with those of St Thomas More. "I am going befor my God, I was not there that day. I had not hand or part in it. God forgive those who swore against me...." And More: "Tomorrow, long I to go to God....In good faith, Mr. Rich (who bore false witness against him), I am more concerned for your perjury than my own danger"
A descendant of the murdered family Johnny Joyce, a Dublin footballer spoke briefly about the story as it came dowm through his own family and of forgivness for those who actually committed the murder.
|Seán Ó Cuirreáin|
Despite much pleading, three of the eight were hanged including the incontrovertibly innocent Myles Joyce. The final chilling response from The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, "The law must take its course!" sealed their fate.
That there was an injustice done is not in doubt in the case of Myles Joyce but the British Justice system is always loath to row back on judicial decisions in law. Remember the phrase of the English Master of the Rolls of an "appalling vista." and "It cannot be right that these actions (appeal of Birmingham six convictions) should go any further."
Several British Peers, the late Lord Avebury and Lord Alton, whose Mother was herself from the Tuar Mhic Éadaigh Gaeltacht, the parish of Mám Trasna, have been active on the case. Indeed the British Minister of Justice is convinced of the validity of the case but is unwilling to act unless there is sufficient interest.
Hopefully this publication will strengthen the case.
ReviewAn excellent review of the book has been written by Dr John Walsh (UCG) which appeared in Tuairisc.ie. (in Irish)
Sárleabhar a thugann ómós cuí d’fhir bhochta ar chiontaigh an Choróin go héagórach iad (A superb book that pays overdue respect to poor men unjustly condemned by the Crown)
ISBN: 978-1-907494-61-1 Foilsithe - Cois Life: 2016. €15.00
• Pictures from the book launch have been published by Tuairisc.ie.
• A wrongful hanging in Conamara (Lorna Siggins, Irish Times 20/5/2016)
Pieces we published on the commemorations in 2012:
Commemoration of Mamtrasna 1882 miscarriage! (20/11/2012)
Pictures discovered after 130 years! (15/1/2013)
• I have written my own comments on this book now on my personal blog: Géileadh don dlí - cóir nó éagóir! (Submit to the law - just or unjust!)