Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Fred Laurenzo

Relational Format



My thesis, “Capital Punishment and Martial Law in Ireland 1916-1923”, deals with the early years of the Irish Dominion. After the ratification of a peace treaty in December of 1921 between Great Britain and Ireland, the lower twenty-six counties of Ireland became a Dominion of the British Empire. The following summer a civil war occurred between the armed forces in Ireland who supported and rejected the treaty. During the Irish civil war, which lasted from June 1922 until April 1923, nearly eighty IRA men were executed by the Pro-Treaty government in Dublin. My thesis looks into the legal and political environment that allowed for such an event to happen. I not only studied the legal system established by the provisional government in 1922-23, but also I took a careful look to examine the effects of the British legal system that had been developed in Ireland in the beginning of the nineteenth century. My research was I accessed books, journals, and Irish government records. I read all or part of fifty books on the Irish revolutionary period lasting from 1916-1923. I especially concentrated on the works of Dr. Charles Townshend and Dr. John Regan, leading British historians in Irish studies. The primary sources were drawn from the first two volumes of the Irish parliament. These records cover the entire period of the civil war. I read over a hundred carried out over a period of twelve months, and during this time, speeches concerning the legal treatment of IRA prisoners during the civil war period. Also, I cited some two dozen speeches in the course of my paper. After reading through all of the data, I have reached the conclusion that the military executions were a necessity of wartime. The executions marked a temporary, emergency response to a well-defined problem in the lower twenty-six counties. After the Irish civil war had ended, the Irish government rescinded the harsh wartime measures. Also, I discovered that there was a clear link between the Irish war measures in 1922 and the emergency legal tactics used by the British government throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The execution of prisoners in 1922 Ireland represented a link to the British legal legacy. It was the English Common Law system that defined Irish legal history throughout a better part of its modem existence. The executions in 1922 suggest that any understanding of Irish legal history is incomplete without first looking to the English Common Law system that took root in Irish jurisprudence.

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