The first of the 1916 rebels were shot dead in the Stonebreakers’ Yard at Kilmainham Gaol after being found guilty (without legal defense or jury) of taking part “in an armed rebellion for the purposes of assisting the enemy.” The fact that they were involved in armed rebellion is beyond doubt, but the primary purpose of the Rising was in support of the declaration of “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland” as stated in the Proclamation which Pádraig Pearse read in front of the GPO on 24th April 1916.
Executed on this day were:
Pádraig Pearse: Dublin born, graduated from the Royal University in 1901 with a degree in Arts and Law. A strong believer in education he founded two schools, Coláiste Éanna and Coláiste Íde, where teaching was through the Irish language. Pearse was a founder member of the Irish Volunteers, and the primary author of the Proclamation of Independence. During the Rising, he fought in the GPO and was Commander in Chief of the rebel forces. “Ireland unfree, shall never be at peace.” –Pádraig Pearse
Thomas James Clarke: Born in the Isle of Wight, Clarke’s father served in the British army. While in America, Clarke joined Clann na nGael. In 1883, he was sentenced to fifteen years of penal servitude for his role in a bombing campaign in London. Clarke was the first signatory of the Proclamation of Independence through deference to his seniority, Clarke was with the group that occupied the GPO. Before execution, he asked his wife Kathleen to give this message to the Irish People, 3 May 1916: ‘I and my fellow signatories believe we have struck the first successful blow for Irish freedom. The next blow, which we have no doubt Ireland will strike, will win through. In this belief, we die happy.’ –Thomas J. Clarke
Thomas MacDonagh: Tipperary born, he was a teacher and founder of St. Enda’s (Coláiste Éanna) School with Pádraig Pearse. A creative mind, his play ‘When the Dawn is Come’ was produced at the Abbey Theatre. He was commander of the Second Battalion of Volunteers that occupied Jacob’s biscuit factory and surrounding houses during the Rising. “The fierce pulsation of resurgent pride that disclaims servitude may one day cease to throb in the heart of Ireland – but the heart of Ireland will that day be dead. While Ireland lives, the brain and the brawn of her manhood will strive to destroy the last vestige of British rule in her territory.” –Thomas MacDonagh