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Sunday 17 December 2017

For years, a conspiracy of silence engulfed the community about case

Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

THEY meet almost every week in the Anner Hotel in Thurles.

Under the cover of a historical group, the Justice for Harry Gleeson Group (JfHG) painstakingly reviews evidence, old and new, to clear Gleeson's name.

It is 72 years since Gleeson, a farmer, was executed for the murder of Mary "Moll" McCarthy. Such are the divisions sown by the killing of the unmarried mother of seven that the campaign to exonerate Gleeson treads cautiously still.

McCarthy, decried from the altar by a local priest, was a pariah in the small rural community of New Inn, Tipperary.

With each illegitimate child she bore, her notoriety increased. The devoted mum, who successfully fought at least two legal bids to have her children removed, had been the subject of an unsolved attempted murder in 1926 when her thatched cottage was burned down.

When she was actually murdered in November 1940, the man who discovered her body – Harry Gleeson – was quickly convicted. There were misgivings at the time of Gleeson's trial, not least because the State failed to produce the firearms register that prosecutors said pointed towards his guilt.

In a twist worthy of the OJ Simpson trial, the size of gun cartridges the State claimed were used by Gleeson to kill McCarthy did not match the same size of cartridges bought by Gleeson's uncle at a hardware store.

For years, Gleeson was not talked about in the family and a conspiracy of silence engulfed the wider community. But many were haunted by what they felt was a gross miscarriage of justice. Books were written, documentaries made, but no pardon followed.

Emboldened by "new" evidence, the JfHG group came together in recent years to launch a campaign for a posthumous pardon.

The group remains silent about who the actual murderer may be. It has confined its quest to clearing Gleeson's name and insists two victims – McCarthy and Gleeson – were wronged.

The murder of Mary McCarthy was horrific, a murder made even more so if the man put to death in her name was innocent after all.

Irish Independent

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