#OTD in 1916 – Final Executions: Seán MacDiarmada and James Connolly are the last of the leaders to be executed at Kilmainham Gaol.

The last executions of 1916 rebels are carried out. Ninety rebels were condemned to death. All but 15 were commuted to lengthy prison terms (most of whom were released in 1917).

The executions were a watershed in Irish attitude to English rule. The vast majority of the Irish population begrudgingly accepted English rule and believed the Rising was an absurd venture. The execution of men who after their capture had been jeered and booed by Dubliners created a raft of martyrs that energised Irish nationalism.

The last two executed were:

Seán MacDiarmada: Born in 1884 in Leitrim, he emigrated to Glasgow in 1900, and from there to Belfast in 1902. A member of the Gaelic League, he was acquainted with Bulmer Hobson. He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1906 while still in Belfast, later transferring to Dublin in 1908 where he assumed managerial responsibility for the IRB newspaper Irish Freedom in 1910. Although MacDiarmada was afflicted with polio in 1912, he was appointed as a member of the provisional committee of Irish Volunteers from 1913, and was subsequently drafted onto the military committee of the IRB in 1915. During the Rising MacDiarmada served in the GPO. “The only failure in Ireland is the failure to strike.” –Seen MacDiarmada

James Connolly: Born in Edinburgh in 1868, he was first introduced to Ireland as a member of the British Army. Despite returning to Scotland, the strong Irish presence in Edinburgh stimulated Connolly’s growing interest in Irish politics in the mid 1890s, leading to his emigration to Dublin in 1896 where he founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party. He spent much of the first decade of the twentieth century in America, he returned to Ireland to campaign for worker’s rights with James Larkin. A firm believer in the perils of sectarian division, Connolly campaigned tirelessly against religious bigotry. In 1913, Connolly was one of the founders of the Irish Citizen Army. During the Easter Rising he was appointed Commandant-General of the Dublin forces, leading the group that occupied the GPO. Unable to stand during his execution due to wounds received during the Rising, Connolly was executed while sitting down on 12 May 1916. He was the last of the leaders to be executed. “Apostles of Freedom are ever idolized when dead, but crucified when alive.” –James Connolly

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