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Monday 21 January 2019

Innocent man hanged for murders to receive posthumous pardon

Murdair Mhám Trasna, TG4, will air on Wed April 4, at 9.30pm
Murdair Mhám Trasna, TG4, will air on Wed April 4, at 9.30pm Newsdesk Newsdesk

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has secured Government approval to recommend the granting of a posthumous pardon to a man convicted and executed for murder in 1882.

Myles Joyce was one of three innocent Irish men who were hanged for the brutal slaying of a family in Mám Trasna, a remote townland set in the mountains of Galway-Mayo border.

Minister Flanagan will recommend to President Michael D Higgins that he exercise his right to pardon Mr Joyce.

"This case is very well known, particularly in the West of Ireland, and it is widely regarded as a clear cut case of wrongful conviction and an historic injustice," he said in a statement this evening.

Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

"In reaching a decision on this matter, I have carefully considered the Attorney General’s legal advice and the expert report commissioned by the former Taoiseach.

"Myles Joyce is one individual but in coming to a decision on this matter, I was acutely conscious of the symbolism of this pardon and its importance for that reason."

On the night of August 17, 1882, five members of the Joyce family were slaughtered.

There were several possible motives for the crime, but the British authorities' responded swiftly - with perjured evidence and bribery of witnesses that led to the conviction of innocent people, with three men - Myles Joyce, Tom Casey and Pat Joyce - hanging and five others imprisoned.

Dr Niamh Howlin, of the Sutherland School of Law in University College Dublin, conducted an expert review into the case.

Her report concluded that Mr Joyce was wrongfully convicted.

"There are two understandings of the term ‘wrongful conviction’.  The first, which may be termed a lay interpretation, is the conviction of a factually innocent person.  The legal interpretation focusses more on the procedures and processes which were used to secure a conviction – in other words, whether the investigation and prosecution of the alleged offence conformed to the legal norms such as the rules of evidence.

"In the case of Myles Joyce, it is possible to point to both the legal and lay interpretations and conclude that he was wrongfully convicted."

Murdair Mhám Trasna (The Mám Trasna Murders), a harrowing new Irish docu-drama highlighting the story, will air on TG4 next week.

The documentary is based on the book Éagóir written by former Irish Language Commissioner Seán Ó Cuirreáin and makes several other shocking revelations about the case, not least of which is the connection to Earl Spencer, the great-granduncle of Princes William and Harry.

Produced by Ciarán Ó Cofaigh of Rosg, Murdair Mhám Trasna will be broadcast on TG4 on Wednesday April 4th at 9.30pm.

Read more: 'There was bribery' - President calls for posthumous pardons for innocent Irish men hanged for infamous murders

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