#OTD in 1916 – Easter Rising: Courts-Martial begin.

There were 160 trials conducted in a two-week period between the 2nd and 16th May 1916. During this period, of the 90 death sentences handed out, 15 of those (including all seven signatories of the Proclamation) had their sentences confirmed by Maxwell and were executed at Kilmainham Gaol by firing squad between 3 and 12 May, the bodies of all executed participants were never returned to their families as part of their punishment. Nearly 2,000 men and women were deported to England.

The actions of Maxwell had major repercussions. The shooting of civilians was brushed aside (more civilians than combatants died during the Rising). Over 3500 people were arrested and interned, most of whom were not involved in the Rising. Most damaging of all, Maxwell tried the 15 leaders of the Rising by Field General Court Martial, a secret trial without a defence or jury. All the leaders were sentenced to death and executed. The resulting outcry around the world caused British Prime Minister Asquith to halt the executions (in total 90 had been sentenced to death).

The secret nature of the Courts Martial proceedings further damaged the British during 1916. Asquith himself recognised this and promised to publish the trial. In reality the files only became available 90 years later in The National Archive in Kew, Surrey, England.

See: Courts–Martial file released by Ancestry

Image credit: Creative Centenaries


Posted by

Stair na hÉireann is steeped in Ireland's turbulent history, culture, ancient secrets and thousands of places that link us to our past and the present. With insight to folklore, literature, art, and music, you’ll experience an irresistible tour through the remarkable Emerald Isle.