James Connolly Execution – Actor Gabriel Byrne at Today in Irish History

May 12: TODAY in Irish History:

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James Connolly 1868-1916

Snippets of Irish History by Conor Cunneen IrishmanSpeaks 

Conor is a Chicago based Motivational Humorous Business Speaker, Author and History buff.




1916: Final Executions of Rebels: James Connolly and Sean MacDiarmada

The last executions of 1916 rebels are carried out. 90 rebels were condemned to death. All but 15 were commuted to lengthy prison terms (most whof those were released in 1917.) Some who died were unlucky. Patrick Pearse’s brother Willie seems to have been executed simply because of their relationship. US born Eamonn De Valera seemingly escaped death because authorities were fearful of American reaction.

The executions were a watershed in Irish attitude to English rule. The vast majority of the Irish population begrudgingly accepted English rule and believed the Rising was an absurd venture. From a pure military viewpoint they were right. However, the execution of men who after their capture had been jeered and booed by Dubliners created a raft of martyrs that energized Irish nationalism.

The last two executed were:

Seán MacDiarmada:

sean macdiarmada
Sean MacDiarmada 

Born in 1884 in Leitrim, MacDiarmada emigrated to Glasgow in 1900, and from there to Belfast in 1902. A member of the Gaelic League, he was acquainted with Bulmer Hobson. He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1906 while still in Belfast, later transferring to Dublin in 1908 where he assumed managerial responsibility for the I. R. B. newspaper Irish Freedom in 1910. Although MacDiarmada was afflicted with polio in 1912, he was appointed as a member of the provisional committee of Irish Volunteers from 1913, and was subsequently drafted onto the military committee of the I. R. B. in 1915. During the Rising MacDiarmada served in the G. P. O.

James Connolly

James Connolly 1868-1916
James Connolly 1868-1916

Born in Edinburgh in 1868, Connolly was first introduced to Ireland as a member of the British Army. Despite returning to Scotland, the strong Irish presence in Edinburgh stimulated Connolly’s growing interest in Irish politics in the mid 1890s, leading to his emigration to Dublin in 1896 where he founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party. He spent much of the first decade of the twentieth century in America, he returned to Ireland to campaign for worker’s rights with James Larkin. A firm believer in the perils of sectarian division, Connolly campaigned tirelessly against religious bigotry. In 1913, Connolly was one of the founders of the Irish Citizen Army. During the Easter Rising he was appointed Commandant-General of the Dublin forces, leading the group that occupied the General Post Office. Unable to stand to during his execution due to wounds received during the Rising, Connolly was executed while sitting down on 12 May 1916. He was the last of the leaders to be executed.



1950: Actor Gabriel Byrne

Gabriel Byrne is born in Dublin. Now internationally famous, Irish TV viewers fondly remember a young Gabriel Byrne in RTE hit series Bracken (Jacob’s Award for Best Actor in a TV Series) and Glenroe. Hit movies include The Usual Suspects and Miller’s Crossing. In 2009, he won Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series for his role in In Treatment.

A youthful Gabriel Byrne in RTE’s Glenroe


1981: Death of Second IRA Hunger Striker

Francis Hughes is the second IRA member to die on hunger strike in prison, one week after the death of Bobby Sands. Hughes was serving an 83 year sentence for the murder of an SAS soldier. He was such an effective, fanatical IRA member that British authorities at one stage named him as the most wanted man in Northern Ireland.


francis hughes IRA hunger striker
Francis Hughes IRA hunger striker




Want to learn more about Ireland? See these images and more in the acclaimed For the Love of Being Irish

Irish gift ideas. Best selling Irish booksRonnie Drew and Luke Kelly - Musical Irish Gifts to the worldJoyce Image in For the Love of Being IrishMichael Collins: Image from For the Love of Being Irish


This history is written by Irish author, business keynote speaker and award winning humorist IrishmanSpeaks – Conor Cunneen. If you spot any inaccuracies or wish to make a comment, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the comment button.

Visit Conor’s YouTube channel IrishmanSpeaks to Laugh and Learn.

Tags: Best Irish Gift, Creative Irish Gift, Unique Irish Gifts, Irish Books, Irish Authors, Today in Irish History TODAY IN IRISH HISTORY (published by IrishmanSpeaks)


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