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Introduction

Patrick Pearse was born on 10 September 1879 in Dublin, the first son of an English monumental sculptor. He was was the older brother of William Pearse.

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

This man was a member of the Irish Bar and was Principal of a college for boys at Rathfarnham, Co Dublin. He had taken an active part in the volunteer movement from its inception, and joined the Sinn Fein or Irish Volunteers when that body became a separate organisation. He was a member of the Central Council of the Irish Volunteers and a regular attendant at the meetings of that body. He was one of the signatories to the Declaration of Irish Independence which document contains the following passage "... She now seizes that moment and fully supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe ... she strickes in the full confidence of victory ... ". He was "Commandant General of the Army of the Irish Republic" and "President of the Provisional Government", and as such, issued a Proclamation to the people of Ireland which was printed and distributed in Dublin and elsewhere.

Patrick Pearse was tried by Field General Courts Martial on 2 May 1916. The proceedings are contained in the PRO document WO 71/345.

Court Martial Proceedings

The members of the courts martial were Brigadier-General C.G. Blackader (President), Lieutenant-Colonels G. German and 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." Patrick Pearse pleaded not guilty.

The 1st witness was 2nd Lieutenant S.O. King (12th Royal Inniskillen Fusiliers) who stated

I was on duty at the Rotunda Dublin on Saturday 29 April. The Sinn Fein was firing at the soldiers. The accused came from the neighbourhood from which the shots were being fired. The accused was in the same uniform in which he is now with belt, sword and revolver on and 3 with ammunition. The accused surrendered to General Lowe.

Patrick Pearse then cross-examined the witness and asked if he was a prisoner in our hands and how were you treated? 2nd Lieutenant King confirmed that he was a prisoner and that he had been well treated.

The 2nd witness was Constable Daniel Coffey (Dublin Metropolitan Police) who stated

I was present when the accused Pearse was in custody at Irish Command HQ at about 5pm on Saturday 29 April. I identify him as a member of the Irish Volunteers. I have seen him several times going through the city with bodies of men and acting as an officer.

Patrick Pearse declined to examine this witness.

Patrick Pearse did not call any witnesses in his defence but made the following statement:

My sole object in surrendering unconditionally was to save the slaughter of the civil population and to save the lives of our followers who had been led into this thing by us. It is my hope that the British Government who has shown its strength will also be magnamimous and spare the lives and give an amnesty to my followers, as I am one of the persons chiefly responsible, have acted as C-in-C and President of the Provisional Government. I am prepared to take the consequences of my act, but I should like my followers to receive an amnesty. I went down on my knees as a child and told God that I would work all my life to gain the freedom of Ireland. I have deemed it my duty as an Irishman to fight for the freedom of my country. I admit I have organised men to fight against Britain. I admit having opened negotiations with Germany. We have kept our word with her and as far as I can see she did her best to help us. She sent a ship with men. Germany has not sent us gold.

Court Martial Verdict

Patrick Pearse was sentenced to death by shooting. This sentence was confirmed by General Maxwell. Between 3.30 and 4am on 3 May 1916, Patrick Pearse was shot in the former stonebreakers yard at Kilmainham Prison. His remains were later buried in Arbour Lane Cemetery.

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