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Home - Spying - The 1916 Easter Uprising - Thomas MacDonagh

Introduction

Thomas MacDonagh was born on 1 February 1878 at Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary, the son of school teachers.

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

This man was a M.A of the National University in Ireland and a tutor in English Literature in the University College Dublin. He took an active part in the Sinn Fein movement since its inauguration and was a prominent officer and Director of Training. He was also a signatory to the Declaration of Irish Independence. He signed a document headed "Army of the Irish Republic" which set out the various "Commands" and described himself there as "Commandant General and member of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic". He was in command of the party of the rebels who occupied and held Jacob's Biscuit Factory from the neighbourhood of which the British troops were fired on and numerous casualties occured.

Thomas MacDonagh was tried by Field General Courts Martial on 2 May 1916. The proceedings are contained in the PRO document WO 71/346.

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." Thomas MacDonagh pleaded not guilty.

The 1st witness was Major J.A. Armstrong (1st Royal Inniskillen Fusiliers) who stated

I was present at St. Patricks Park Dublin on 30 April 1916. There were British troops there and I saw them fired on. I was under fire myself. The shots came from the direction of Jacob's Factory. There were several casualties among the British troops. At a later hour I saw the accused coming from the direction of Jacob's Factory under a white flag. He made several journeys through our lines - about 5pm he surrendered with over 100 others to General Carleton. He was acting as an officer when he surrendered. I made a list of the unarmed men and the accused was not on that list. He made a statement to me that he was a Commandant. He was subsequently sent under escort to Richmond Barracks.

Thomas MacDonagh then cross-examined the witness and asked if he knew why MacDonagh had come out of the building? Major Armstrong stated that he did not know that the accused had come out at the invitation of General Lowe. Also MacDonagh had told him that there was no point searching him as he had already destroyed any documents in his possession.

Thomas MacDonagh did not call any witnesses in his defence but made the following statement:

I did everything I could to assist the officers in the matter of the surrender telling them where the arms and ammunition were after the surrender was decided upon.

Court Martial Verdict

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

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