Home » Events » Midland Murderers and Callous Crimes: Delaney, Barnes and the “Quare Fellow” Revisited

Midland Murderers and Callous Crimes: Delaney, Barnes and the “Quare Fellow” Revisited

Dr David Doyle on Midland Murderers and Callous Crimes: Delaney, Barnes and the “Quare Fellow” Revisited. Much of the rationale underpinning the enduring political support for capital punishment in the independent Irish state was embedded in its perceived efficacy as a deterrent to potential subversive activity.

Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore

22nd September 2014 at 8:00 pm

 

This was particularly encapsulated during the Second World War – a period when emergency legislation, internment, and special tribunals were introduced to counteract the subversive threat. Yet the surge in the number of executions during the “Emergency” is not fully explained by the use of capital punishment to deal with the threat to the state posed by the IRA. Indeed, most of those executed during this period (seven out of 13) were ordinary citizens whose displays of interpersonal violence had no wider ramifications.

One such prisoner was Bernard Kirwan who was convicted of the murder of his brother, Laurence, in February 1943. Although the evidence against Kirwan was entirely circumstantial (and may not have been sufficient to convict him today), clemency was denied. Of course, modern DNA techniques may have substantiated the vital evidence, but it is somewhat puzzling that at a point in time when the balance of deaths to reprieves shifted, with more condemned persons like Kirwan being killed than spared, that the Irish government petitioned for the reprieve of number of IRA men – one of whom was Peter Barnes from Banagher – sentenced to death in Britain and Northern Ireland. Although a similar pattern is seen in the immediate aftermath of the civil war – a dozen people, including another Offaly killer, Thomas Delaney, were hanged between 1923 and 1926 – the use of the gallows resumed its downward spiral after the Emergency and the mercy ratio switched back in favour of the condemned person.

 

Dr. David Doyle is an IRC Marie Sklodowska-Curie Elevate Fellow at the Centre for Criminology, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford. He is currently co-authoring a book on capital punishment in Ireland with Professor Ian O’Donnell, UCD Sutherland School of Law.

Contribution, €2 to members and €5 to non members includes tea/coffee after meeting

 

For further information contact Michael Byrne at 086 8201778 or michael.byrne@offalyhistory.com

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