'A notorious miscarriage of justice': Ireland pardons man executed 136 years ago

From CBC - April 10, 2018

The president of Ireland describes the case as a "miscarriage of justice."

Of course, he has the benefit of hindsight: that miscarriage took place 136 years ago.

In 1882, a man named Myles Joyce was hanged for a murder that he did not commit. His trial was held entirely in English, but Joyce only spoke Irish. Although he could not even understand his defence lawyer, Joycemaintained his innocence until the very end. President Michael D. Higgins officially pardoned Joyce on April 4.

Niamh Howlin is a lecturer at University College Dublin's Sutherland School of Law. She spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about Joyce and a report she was commissioned to write on his caseby the Irish government.

Here is part of their conversation.

Ms. Howlin, what was your reaction when you learned that Myles Joyce was going to be pardoned after 136 years?

I was delighted to hear about it. These things do take time, and there has been some growing support for a pardon in recent years. There are still some family members, some descendants, of Mr. Joyce still living in the country and our president, Michael D. Higgins, also had an interest in the case.

We are referring to him as Myles Joyce, but his Gaelic name was Maolra Seoighe, is that right?

Maolra Seoighe, yeah. He was an Irish speaker, so a Gaelic speaker, and he did not speak any English. That was fairly common in the part of Ireland where he was from. What happened was there was a very brutal murder of five members of the same family in August 1882. So a husband, his wife, his son, his daughter and his mother were all killed in the dead of night. A number of people were accused of the murder and ultimately three men were hanged for it. But the trail itself did not take place in the localitydid not take place in Galway. It took place right across the country in Dublin. There were several problems with the way the trial was conducted.

But the biggest problem was that the trial was conducted in the English language, is that right?

I think that's probably one of the biggest problems. If they had kept the trial in Galway, in the original location, there would have been an interpreter in the court because it was a bilingual area and some of the people on the jury probably would have spoken Irish as well.


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