Capital Punishment in Independent Ireland

BookCapital Punishment in Independent Ireland

Capital Punishment in Independent Ireland

A Social, Legal and Political History


December 31st, 2019

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This is a comprehensive and nuanced historical survey of the death penalty in Ireland from the immediate post-civil war period through to its complete abolition. Using original archival material, this book sheds light on the various social, legal and political contexts in which the death penalty operated and was discussed.

In Ireland the death penalty served a dual function: as an instrument of punishment in the civilian criminal justice system, and as a weapon to combat periodic threats to the security of the state posed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Through close examination of cases dealt with in the ordinary criminal courts, this study elucidates ideas of class, gender, community and sanity and explores their impact on the administration of justice. The application of the death penalty also had a strong political dimension, most evident in the enactment of emergency legislation and the setting up of military courts specifically aimed at the IRA. As the book demonstrates, the civilian and the political strands converged in the story of the abolition of the death penalty in Ireland. Long after decision-makers accepted that the death penalty was no longer an acceptable punishment for ‘ordinary’ cases of murder, lingering anxieties about the threat of subversives dictated the pace of abolition and the scope of the relevant legislation.



‘Unusually accessible and – dare I say it – entertaining… all of the required academic rigour is here to support their [Doyle and O’Callaghan] theses, but it is presented with such lucid argument and storytelling that it weighs lightly on the casual reader.’
Joe Culley, History Ireland

'An excellent and closely researched book, which contributes greatly to historical knowledge of the death penalty in Europe. It is instructive for criminologists in particular to comprehend the political ramifications of punishment beyond issues of public opinion and popular punitiveness, as these enable us to appreciate the role of punishment as an instrument of state power and state maintenance.'
Lizzie Seal, Criminology & Criminal Justice

Author Information

David M. Doyle is Lecturer in Law at Maynooth University. Liam O’Callaghan is Senior Lecturer in Sport Studies at Liverpool Hope University.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Contents 5
1. Capital Punishment in the Post-Civil War Years41
2. The Death Penalty under Fianna Fáil and the Inter-Party Governments73
3. Women and the Death Penalty111
4. Community, Respectability and Sanity148
5. Psychiatry, Criminal Responsibility and the Tempering of Punishment181
6. The Shadow of Subversion211
Conclusion: Ireland as a Mainstream Abolitionist Country255