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Home - Spying - The 1916 Easter Uprising - Eamonn Ceannt

Introduction

Eamonn Ceannt was born in 1881 in Galway, but was raised and educated in Dublin.

In a memorandum sent by General Sir John Maxwell to the then British Prime Minister, Herbet Asquith, the following description was provided for Eamonn Ceannt:

This man was one of the signatories to the Declaration of Irish Independence. He was on the Executive Committee and Central Council of the Irish Volunteers and attended all their meetings. He was an extremist in his views and identified himself with all pro-German movements. He held the rank of Commandant in the rebel army and was in command at the South Dublin Union in the capture of which the British troops suffered heavily, losing both officers and men. He was armed at the time of his surrender.

Eamonn Ceannt was tried by Field General Courts Martial on 3-4 May 1916. The proceedings are contained in the PRO document WO 71/348.

Court Martial Proceedings

The members of the courts martial were Brigadier-General C.G. Blackader (President), Lieutenant-Colonel G. German and Lieutenant-Colonel W.J. Kent.

To the charge of " ... did take part in an armed rebellion and in the waging of war against His Majesty the King, such act being of such a nature as to be calculated to be prejudicial to the Defence of the Realm and being done with the intension and for the purpose of assisting the enemy."

The 1st witness was Major J.A. Armstrong who stated

I was at Patricks Park on 30 April 1916. The British troops were fired on, the fire came from the neighbourhood of Jacob's Factory. Several casualties occured. I was under fire. I was present about 5pm when the party from Jacob's Factory surrendered. I directed an officer to make a list of the unarmed men. The accused surrendered as one of the party and was at the head of it, his name was not on the unarmed list. There was an armed list made and his name appears at the head and from information he gave he his described as Commandant. I asked him to give orders and he did so, they were obeyed.

When cross-examined by the accused, Major Armstrong confirmed that the two lists of men: armed and unarmed, were made after the groups of men were disarmed. Armstrong stated that the accused did not have a rifle but a revolver or automatic pistol which he removed from a pocket and placed on the ground.

Eamonn Ceannt called three witnesses in his defence: John McBride, Richard Davys and Patrick Sweeney. One of the other witnesses due to be called was Thomas MacDonagh, but he was executed by firing squad during the early morning of 3 May 1916.

The 1st witnesss called by Eamonn Ceannt in his defence was John McBridewho stated

I know the accused intimately. I should be in no doubt as to his identity. I remember Sunday 30 April 1916 and preceding days, I was in Jacob's factory, I left it on Sunday afternoon between 4 and 5pm. The accused was not in my company before I left. It was impossible for the accused to be in Jacob's factory without my knowledge, he had no connection with the party that occupied Jacob's factory.

When John McBride was cross-examined he stated that he saw the accused in the area of St Patrick's Park when the group under his command surrendered, and that he did not see the accused at any time between Easter Monday and Sunday 30 April 1916. He also confirmed that he did not have any knowledge that the accused was the Commandant of the 4th Battalion.

Both Richard Davys and Patrick Sweeney confirmed that they had not seen the accused in Jacob's Factory, however Richard Davys stated that he saw the accused in the area of St Patrick's Park.

Following his last witness Eamonn Ceannt made the following statement

Three witnesses who were in Jacob's Factory from Monday 24 April 1916 to about 5pm on Sunday 30 April have sworn that I was not in Jacob's Factory during any of that period and was not one of a party which surrendered from Jacob's Factory on Sunday 30 April. Another witness who was not available [Thomas MacDonagh] whould have been able to corroborate these three. The evidence makes it quite clear that I can't have had anything to do with the firing from the neighbourhood of Jacobs which resulted in casualties to British troops at St Patrick's Park as referred to. I don't accuse Major Armstrong of endeavouring to mislead the Court but it's clear that he was deceived in thinking that I was attached in any way to the Jacobs party which as deposed fired on British troops in the neighbourhood of Patrick's Park. He had admitted that his plan of making a list of armed men was by a process of elimination of the unarmed men from the whole list on parade and from recollection. He had admitted that the list of armed men was compiled after all men had been disarmed. I submit tha this evidence is not conclusive except insofar as it concerned the unarmed men and is not evidence as to the men who were armed. I claim at least that there is reasonable doubt and the benefit of the doubt should be given to the accused. In regard to my carrying arms there is no positive or direct evidence except that Major Armstrong believes I carried a revolver or automatic pistol which he says I took from my pocket and laid upon the ground. As to my having surrendered to the military authorities this is sufficiently proved by my presence at Richmond Barracks and is hereby freely admitted. As to the accusation that I did an act " ... with the intention and for the purpose of assisting the enemy ..." I content myself with a simple denial. The Crown did not even tender evidence in this regard. I gave away my automatic pistol. The Volunteer uniform more often that not does not indicate the rank of the wearer. The witness I intended to call and could not be found from the description I gave to the Police would have proven that I did not come from the neighbourhood of Jacob's Factory. I came at the head of two bodies of men but was only connected with one body.

Court Martial Verdict

Eamonn Ceannt was found guilty and sentenced to death by shooting. The sentenced was confirmed by General Maxwell.

Between 3.45 and 4.05am on 8 May 1916, Eamonn Ceannt was shot in the former stonebreakers yard at Kilmainham Prison. His remains were later buried in Arbour Lane Cemetery.

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