Presidential pardon for innocent man executed for 19th century Mám Trasna murders
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Presidential pardon for innocent man executed for 19th century Mám Trasna murders

PRESIDENT of Ireland Michael D Higgins has officially pardoned one of the men executed for the 1882 Mám Trasna murders.

The President today signed a warrant granting a posthumous pardon to Maolra Seoighe (Myles Joyce) in relation to his conviction and execution for the murder of five people.

It is only the second time a posthumous pardon has been issued in Ireland, and the first in relation to a crime that pre-dates the foundation of the State.

Language barrier

The Mám Trasna incident involved the brutal murder a family of five in the remote village of Mám Trasna in Co. Mayo.

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Joyce was one of 10 people arrested and charged with the murders.

After court proceedings were carried out in English, a language they didn’t understand, eight men were convicted in relation to the crime.

Three, including Myles, were sentenced to death.

Despite the other two men subsequently confessing to the crime and absolving Joyce of any wrongdoing, he was hanged with them in December 1882.

Paid testimony

Research by author and journalist Seán Ó Cuirreáin has since found that three eyewitnesses had been paid for their testimony by then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, John Spencer.

They each received £1,250 (in excess of £150,000 today), which was well over the going rate.

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The events were described by the prominent British historian Robert Kee as “one of the most blatant miscarriages of justice in British legal history”.

President Higgins had backed a campaign for the three executed men to be pardoned, and appointed an expert to examine the case last year.

In 2015, the President also granted the only previous posthumous pardon in Ireland to Tipperary man Harry Gleeson, who was executed in 1941 for the murder of Mary McCarthy.