1954: Michael Manning, the last hanged in Ireland

On this date in 1954, Michael Manning was hanged for the drunken rape-murder of an elderly nurse. It was the last execution in the Republic of Ireland.

Less than 40 years before the modern Irish state had been born in a bloody civil war, notorious for its many executions.

But once Ireland had the stability to draw a line under political executions in the early 1920s, it proved to have scant appetite for capital punishment. Indeed, a provision abolishing it altogether had even been considered for Ireland’s 1922 constitution.

Although Mountjoy Prison had murder hangings in the mid-1920s, which was the style at the time, even by the 1930s actual executions had receded into oddity status: only four men and one woman were hanged in that entire decade. They even had to keep importing British hangman Tom Pierrepoint, and later his famous nephew Albert Pierrepoint, to carry them out. That can’t have helped the popularity of the enterprise.

There was a brief death penalty recrudescence during the war years, and that was pretty much it. Michael Manning’s milestone execution (also in Mountjoy Prison, also conducted by Albert Pierrepoint) was the first one since 1948 … and the last one ever since.

Ireland repealed the death penalty for ordinary crimes in 1964, and has since abolished it for everything else. That constitutional prohibition on the death penalty that Ireland didn’t enact in 1922 was in 2001 adopted after all in what is now a very staunchly abolitionist Ireland.

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