Opinion

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Astonishing find prompts re-appraisal of Rising trials

Images of Padraig Pearse, which were used to promote the RTE documentary, Padraig Pearse - Fanatic Heart.
Images of Padraig Pearse, which were used to promote the RTE documentary, Padraig Pearse - Fanatic Heart.

Sean Enright

Most books on the 1916 Rising end with the surrender. But what happened after, when more than 1,000 prisoners were marched up to Richmond Barracks and sifted for trial, deportation or release?

The whole trial process almost stalled with the very first prisoner, Padraig H Pearse. When the Great War broke out, Westminster had passed the Defence of the Realm Act to allow the trial of civilians by courts martial in the event of military emergency. But the law stipulated that prisoners could only be executed where the evidence proved they had acted with the intention to assist the enemy.

Senior army officers believed the rising had been funded by Germany. There was much talk of German snipers and German gold but none could be found. The Aud, the German arms ship, had been scuttled with its cargo. There was a scarcity of evidence that the prisoners had acted with the intention to assist Germany.

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