Mary Kenny: Bloodthirsty lynch mobs have no place in civilised societies
ARE you opposed to the death penalty for homicide, murder and other atrocious crimes? If you are you are part of a globalised campaign against capital punishment, 'Death Penalty Worldwide', launched on the web this year. Earlier this month, on October 10, events marked the 'World Day Against the Death Penalty' in many countries throughout the world.
Gradually, the abolitionists -- those who campaign to abolish capital punishment everywhere -- have been gaining ground. There are now only 58 countries that retain capital punishment, and only 23 of these regularly carry out executions. Countries in Africa such as South Africa, Malawi and Kenya have abolished capital punishment; and even in the US, the states are increasingly abolitionist either in law or in practice. Twenty-four American states out of 50 have formally abolished the death penalty and others are reducing the practice. Abolitionists are meanwhile focused on Iran, Japan, and China, where capital punishment still exists.
The Irish have never been enthusiastic about capital punishment, and no hanging was carried out in Ireland after 1954: even when it was legal, the state had to import a British hangman, Albert Pierrepoint, to do the job as there were insufficient volunteers among Irishmen. (Pierrepoint is a central character in Brendan Behan's 'The Quare Fellow', unfairly portrayed as a bloodthirsty executioner. Pierrepoint had his own code of ethics: he did his best to dispatch his victims with the minimum amount of suffering. (When he hanged Ruth Ellis, the last woman in Britain to face the gallows, he dispatched her in eight seconds.) By the end of his career, Pierrepoint himself had become an abolitionist. From the Vatican (which first condemned the death penalty in the 19th Century) to all international human rights organisations, the death penalty is condemned.