Taoiseach Leo Varadkar should formally apologise for executions carried out by the Free State Government during the Civil War, according to a leading historian.
Ronan McGreevy says the State carried out 81 executions of ‘dubious legality’ during the conflict – but the killings of four men in particular was little short of murder.
Rory O’Connor, Liam Mellows, Richard Barrett and Joe McKelvey were executed without trial at Mountjoy Prison on December 8th, 1922.
The were executed in reprisal for the assassination of TD Sean Hales the previous day – even though they had been in jail for six months and could have had nothing to do the killing.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Mr McGreevy said Mr Varadkar is in a unique position to offer an apology as a Fine Gael Taoiseach in power with Fianna Fáil.
“Leo Varadkar is the inheritor of the Cumann na nGaedheal tradition,” he said. “It was the pro-treaty Government at that stage that carried out the execution.
“They became Cumann na nGaedheal in April 1923 and obviously, Fine Gael are the sort of descendants of them so I believe it should be the responsibility of the present Taoiseach to issue a State apology for those four deaths.”
Stain on our State
Mr McGreevy said the State has failed to face up to the legacy of the Civil War as we mark its centenary – especially the executions, which remain a “stain on our State”.
“There has been, to me, a conscious or unconscious policy of avoiding the elephant in the room in relation to the Civil War,” he said.
“To me, the elephant in the room has been the executions.
“They have been a stain on our State for the last 100 years and, unless they are addressed and addressed properly, I feel the Civil War centenary will have passed without having any impact on the public consciousness at all.”
He said the coming together of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in government offers a unique opportunity to apologise – and said there are “strong signs” that the Taoiseach realises that.
“He’s in government with Fianna Fáil, the Government is working reasonably well and I think, if he doesn’t do this now, there won’t be an opportunity like this again,” he said.
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