In the historic week that we have, it appropriate to remember the execution of the 16 people involved in the 1916 Rising. The Cork Examiner on Monday 1 May ran an article on the official surrender by Pádraig Pearse on the previous Saturday night. The short snippet read: “In order to prevent the further slaughter of unarmed people and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers, now surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered, the members of the Provisional Government present at Headquarters have agrees to an unconditional surrender, and the commanders of all units of the Republican Forces will order their followers to lay down their arms”. It was signed P H Pearse, dated 29th day of April, 1916.
General Maxwell declared martial law and gave the order to execute the 16. On 7 May, the newspaper detailed that Commandant Pearse had been shot dead on 3 May; “Patrick H Pearse, Commandant General of the Army of the Irish Republic, and President of the Provisional Government, was 36 years old. A member of the Irish Bar, and the Headmaster of St Enda’s School for Boys at Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin. He was born in Dublin, but was of English descent. After sentence of court-martial he was shot”.
On 8 May the Cork Examiner described in an editorial on the death toll of the Rising that although no official figures have been issued by the authorities; “it is known that the number of deaths of civilians caused in the recent revolt is considerable. Already no fewer than 160 have been accounted for, but the list which has been complied is by no means complete, as many dead bodies were not recognised in any of the places open to public inspection”. The 160 bodies they mentioned were made up of 112 male, 20 females, and 28 unidentified. During the previous few days many bodies had been buried in the Glasnevin cemetery. The previous day to the editorial no fewer than 60 being interred there during yesterday. In Mount Jerome there were also buried 25 civilians, 2 officers, 3 privates and a member of the Veterans Corps. Certificates of death from shot wounds were issued in respect of 150 cases. Owing to the shortage of labour the bodies have in many cases been interred coffinless, in their clothes, in sheets and in blankets.
In an editorial on 10 May, the editor argued for a ceasing to the executions; “Everything now is quiet throughout the country, and the stillness of death apparently hangs over our much-tried capital. Is it not time, therefore, that the putting into effect of the extreme penalty should cease, and that some effort was made in the future that the accused should be tried under circumstances which would provide that some idea of the accusations and the gravity of charges of those involved should be judged by the public? It is very widely believed that on a very small circle indeed the responsibility for this terrible occurrence rests.”
At a meeting of Cork Harbour Board: Mr D J Lucy presided. The chairman said that the previous week the board passed a resolution denouncing the late rising in Dublin; Speaking Mr Lucy said; “that as a sequel to their first resolution, and in keeping with their duty, they should yield to the side of clemency and Christian charity, and ask the Government to cease any further executions as sufficient had been done to expiate the offences of these foolish leaders in Dublin. The universal cry at the present, not only in Ireland, but in England, was that there should be an immediate cessation of the death penalty. He pointed out that such a course would not alone affect any bitterness that may remain, but may be entailed in the future. It would be in the interests of England to stop them for she had to look to the feelings of their kith and kin fighting England’s battle on the fields of France and elsewhere, and also the feelings of an important section of the population in America, who were watching these events”. He proposed that the board send a message to the Prime Minister Mr Asquith asking him to use his clemency, and to stop any further executions as sufficient has been done to atone for what had occurred.
The Assistant Bishop of Cork, the Lord Mayor of Cork, the City High Sheriff, and Messrs John J. Horgan, solicitor; George Crosbie, BL, James J McCabe, LLD, members of UIL, Cork City Executive, sent to the Lord Lieutenant, Mr Asquith, the Prime Minister, and Mr John E Redmond, MP, a telegram which declared that, voicing the opinion of the great majority of the citizens of Cork, they protested strongly against any further shootings as the result of court-martial trials, and against indiscriminate arrests throughout the country – that “Such shootings and arrests are having a most injurious effect on the feelings of the Irish people, and if persisted in may be extremely prejudicial to the peace and future harmony of Ireland, and seriously imperil the future friendly relations between Ireland and England”.
842a. Pádraig Pearse (source: Cork City Library)
842b. Proclamation banner on display at this year’s Cork St Patrick’s Day Parade, 2016 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)