Ireland’s President calls for three Irishmen executed by Britain 135 years ago to be pardoned

Ireland’s President calls for three Irishmen executed by Britain 135 years ago to be pardoned

IRISH President Michael D Higgins has called for three men executed by the British in 1882 based on a false testimony to be pardoned.

Myles Joyce, Pat Casey and Pat Joyce were hanged 135 years ago over the murder of a family of five on the Galway-Mayo border in the parish of Mám Trasna.

In all, ten people were accused of killing the family – with five receiving life sentences and the remaining two escaping unpunished after testifying for the prosecution.

The infamous case attracted a great deal of controversy during its trial in Dublin – which took place in the English language despite the fact that many of the accused spoke only Irish.

The testimonies of the three executed men were ignored as they were not given in English.


Only one lawyer assigned to defend the men spoke the native tongue of the British Empire.

The trial was also contentious as a number of witnesses were paid as much as £140,000 (€160,000) in today’s money to testify.

On the way to the gallows on December 15, 1882, Myles Joyce is said to have remarked: “I will see Jesus Christ in a short while – he too was unjustly hanged.

“God help my wife and her five orphans.”

President Higgins said the time is right for the trio who were executed to be absolved of guilt.

“The government has appointed an expert to examine the case,” he told a new documentary. “I look forward to receiving the expert’s opinion and the government’s advice on the matter.


“If it were up to me, the formalities aside, I would be happy to accept that the injustice which occurred should be recognized.

“My view is that the moral issue is clear – everything that happened at the level of the state was horrendous.”

“There was bribery involved,” he continued. “The accused didn’t get a proper chance to defend themselves.”

Mr Higgins added: There wasn’t an atmosphere of equality and there was no equality as regards legal processes at that time.

“They [the British] viewed them as a race apart who were not on equal footing with ordinary civilized people.”

The new documentary on the case, Murdair Mhám Trasna, will be broadcast on Irish-language channel TG4.

The film has been made by Irish journalist Ciaran Ó Cofaigh, who remains hopeful that the three men will be pardoned.


“It would be wonderful if the injustice suffered by those innocent men 135 years ago were to be recognized now by the granting of posthumous pardons,” he told The Times.

“It is certainly better late than never.”

Despite huge public outcry following the hangings, the British Government rejected a potential inquiry into the case.

The affair led to the fall of William Gladstone’s government after the Irish Party withdrew its support for the British Prime Minister.

Two years later in 1884, one of the witnesses, Tom Casey, confessed to a priest in Galway that his testimony had been a lie and three innocent men had been hanged because of it.