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An Pluiméir Ceolmhar BS: Easter Rising - April 24-29, 1916 (1327* d) RE: BS: Easter Rising - April 24-29, 1916 08 May 16

Here goes. I've recently read two books on the courts martial, and they complement each other.

"The Secret Court Martial Records of the Easter Rising" by Brian Barton, published by The History Press, ISBN 978 0 7509 5063 3
gives a good historical account of each court martial in turn, with plenty of narrative detail on the events leading up to it.

Easter Rising 1969 - The Trials, by Seán Enright, published by Merrion, ISBN 978-1-908928-37-5, gives a more summary historical account but focuses more closely on the legality (or otherwise) of the trials and executions.

Enright qualified as a barrister (attorney) in both the UK and Ireland and is now a circuit judge. From his book it is clear that the legal process was very shoddy and designed to ensure that "the ringleaders" could be shot with some aura of legality. In spite of requests for the court records, the British Government concluded that they were on such shaky legal ground that publishing them would be an embarrassment. The government files on the courts martial and executions were kept secret far beyond the normal period, and in some cases documents were removed from them.

There were also inconsistencies in how some 90 death sentences in all were executed or commuted - in a nutshell, the earlier you were tried, the more likely you were to be shot. None of the officers sitting as judges had any legal knowledge or experience, and the officer sent as legal advisor on Maxwell's staff was an admiralty barrister (a specialist in commercial shipping lawsuits, not military or criminal law), a second lieutenant commissioned just a few months previously and not on the Judge Advocate General's staff. The defendants were denied legal representation, and it was left to the prosecuting officer (a barrister who served in uniform during the Rising as he was a member of Trinity College Officer Training Corps) to help some of them prepare their defence in the few minutes he had with them before the trial. The requirement to have the proceedings and sentences reviewed by the Judge Advocate General was ignored.

By way of comparison, four British soldiers were charged with murder for their actions during the Rising: they were given legal assistance and tried by full General Court Martial with the protection of a Judge Advocate.

Regarding the Cork Kent family, no evidence was offered as to who fired the fatal shot. William was apparently acquitted because an RIC officer gave him a good character reference at the trial.

For the record, Enright consistently uses the term Field General Court Martial or its abbreviation FGCM.

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