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10b the Evil That Men Do

10b the Evil That Men Do

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Published by Seamus Breathnach

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Published by: Seamus Breathnach on May 18, 2011
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07/01/2012

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Seamus Breathnach’s Irish-criminology.com examines Irish society through its norm-creating as well as itsnorm-breaking agencies. These include the Church controls of Ireland’s State -- its Schools, Law, Police,Courts, Prisons, Media and much more...
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10.) Capital Punishment
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10.b. A Short History of capital Punishment In Ireland
The Evil That Men Do
 
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Sile, Sean and Seamus
Seamus :
As you can see, there are three substantial Appendices in this work. TheseAppendices have had to be cut to the bone because on their own they take up enoughroom to constitute a work on their own; but this would be to reduce criminology to the levelof criminal reportage. And even if we have no great crushing truths to draw from thesecases, we prefer to have them located in space and time, in a way that leaves them opento further analysis.Of course each of them could be drawn out and treated as a major work. One might evenget arty about them, that is, if one had nothing better to do, and if one was going to liveforever. But even if one did this, what would one have in the end? Another bout of criminaldiarrhea. This is not what criminology is about.
 
Sean:
But Chapter 8 is focused totally on one execution, that of William Gambon.
Seamus:
Well you have to make up your own mind about it. It is only one chapter -- andeven that is oversized.
Sean:
I am not concerned about its size, but the damage you have done to the reputationand memory of President Cearbhaill O’Dalaigh.
Seamus:
Explain yourself.
Sean:
Hitherto the President was regarded as the most fair-minded, scholarly and patrioticof men. Now, it appears that he attacked a man when he was most vulnerable -- and notonly that, but he used the Christian sword to do so, and he used it in preference to hisstated passion for Gaelic.
Seamus:
So?
Sean:
Don’t you have any respect for natives at all?
Seamus:
You’ll want to do better than that!
Sean:
If I go with your argument …--- What is your argument?
Seamus
(to Sile)
:
You explain it to him!
Sile:
Not again. What am I? Maybe I don’t agree with it.
Seamus:
And I don’t want to keep on repeating myself!
Sean:
Agree with What?
Sile:
O, forget it.
Sean:
I would surely prefer to talk about music or, preferably, listen to some goodmusic ,than continue this relentless pursuit of logic.
Seamus:
We’ll talk about music later, the criminology of music --
Sile:
You promise!
Seamus:
later. Now , please get on with it.
!
Sean:
The criminology of music!!! Now I have heard everything!
Sile:
The issue, as I understand it, is simple. Properly speaking, one’s sympathies go firstto the victim and not to the perpetrator.
Sean:
A Daniel come to judge us . I agree entirely. And in Gambon’s case -- if that iswhat we are still talking about -- his crime was awful. He killed his friend with a bar -- after a game of cards. Why should he not pay the penalty for his crime?
 
Sile:
Even if that was the issue - and it is not -- his crime was more akin to manslaughter than murder. And the Saorstat, while merciful in many ways, was perfectly arbitrary inothers. For a start, it hardly held reliable records between 1922 and 1944. I don’t just meanretaining the records dealing with the Jury’s request for mercy, but with respect toidentifying exactly whom it was specifically whose role it was to award a reprieve. The firstten years of the Saorstat are practically without records -- records, that is, that havebecome available to the public on all these matters. Furthermore, while De Valera wasvery fond of rattling back the old letter pointing out that the law had little or nothing to dowith him -- even in the case of old comrades -- the fact of the matter was that during thisperiod the law was very uncertain.
Sean:
How uncertain?
Sile:
For one thing , under British law, if you received a reprieve, it was invariably in favour of Penal Servitude for Life. That meant that no further reprieve was possible. With theIrish , this is changed and some people benefit from both the commutation as well as areprieve later from prison terms.
Sean:
But , is that a bad thing? And did happen that often?
Sile:
It didn’t happen that often and it is not a bad thing. What is bad about it is thearbitrariness of it. By the way, in the Gambon case, you can see the arbitrariness in themanner in which he was handled. He is a nobody, that is, in Irish life there was none on hisside. He had no social standing: there were no priests, party-faithfuls, or communitypeople on his side. Not even a publican, a house-holder, a friend, a half-farmer. He wasthe most anonymous of Irish urban dwellers in the forties -- a non-religious, non-political,uneducated, upright, urban member of the proletariat of Dublin’s unemployed. He couldn’tget more anonymous than that -- not, that is, since the anonymity afforded by the Dublinrookeries in Swift’s time. At least there was a camaraderie among thieves then. Thecriminals used to run to the rookeries behind St. Patrick’s in the substantial hope that theCastle-men would never enter such an impoverished manor in pursuit. In many ways,Gambon, the penultimate person executed by Saorstat Eireann, had no shelter from thehorrors of power whatsoever. He was one of the new state’s ‘little people’, one of theone’s who lived between ‘hither and thither’, in constant emigrational flux: a man caughtbetween two poles, the secular and the religious. He was caught in that awful vortexbetween English reality and Irish mythology. He lived in times when he had to navigate the‘glue’ that passed between the big wheel of England and its contracting Empire and thelittle wheel of the Saorstat and its expanding religious Empire. The glue wasn’t justgeographical, but emotional also, the kind of Danny-Boy cabaiste that petty Republic loveto sacrifice in order to make themselves monstrous.In many ways, people like Cearbhaill O’Dalaigh and William Gambon are alike. It’s just thatone joined the party; the other didn’t know that trick: and the ebb and flow of the religiousEmpire and its exigencies did the rest.
Sean:
Aren’t you a bit hard -
Sile:
Hard on who!
Sean:
Hard on Cearbhaill O’Dalaigh!
Sile:
What did he do with his enthusiasm for Gaelic culture? He didn’t even see theanonymous urban Dubliner as a person. He lashed away with ‘scripture’ and ‘reason’ , like

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