The Phoenix Park Assassinations – Irish Revolutionaries

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The Phoenix Park Assassinations

The Phoenix Park Assassinations

On May 6th 1882, an Irish Republican group known as "The Invincibles" assassinated the Chief Secretary for Ireland Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Henry Burke who was the Permanent Undersecretary (head of British administration in Ireland).

Ireland at the time was heading towards another "Great Hunger" with potato blight, mass evictions, and mass emigration affecting the Irish poor while the Landlord class became even more wealthy.

Parnell had agreed on the Kilmainham treaty and released from Kilmainham Gaol only a few days previous, in protest at his release Chief Secretary "Buckshot" Forster resigned and was replaced by Lord Frederick.

The Invincibles, an offshoot of the IRB had made previous attempts to assassinate "Buckshot" Forster so now set their sights on taking out Thomas Henry Burke. They were determined to strike back against the mass evictions happening in Ireland.

On May 5th, at Ballina the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) had opened fire and charged a peaceful crowd, killing several children under the age of fourteen. The Invincibles decided to strike back immediately.

Newly installed Chief Secretary for Ireland Lord Frederick Cavendish, on the very day of his arrival to Ireland, was walking with Burke to the Viceregal Lodge, the "out of season" residence of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

The first assassination in the park was committed by Joe Brady, who attacked Burke with a 12-inch knife, followed in short order by Tim Kelly, who knifed Cavendish. Both men used surgical knives. The British press expressed outrage and demanded that the "Phoenix Park Murderers" be brought to justice.

A large number of suspects were arrested. By playing off one suspect against another, Superintendent Mallon of "G" Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police got several of them to reveal what they knew.

The Invincibles' leader, James Carey, and Michael Kavanagh agreed to testify against the others. Joe Brady, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey, Dan Curley and Tim Kelly were hanged by William Marwood in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin between May 14th and June 4th 1883. Others were sentenced to long prison terms.

Prominent members of the Invincibles John Walsh, Patrick Egan, John Sheridan, Frank Byrne, and Patrick Tynan fled to the United States.

Carey was shot dead on board Melrose Castle off Cape Town, South Africa, on July 29th 1883, by Donegal man Patrick O'Donnell, for giving evidence against his former comrades.

O'Donnell was apprehended and escorted back to London, where he was convicted of murder at the Old Bailey and hanged on December 17th 1883.

William Marwood the hangman who executed the Invincibles died on September 4th 1883, idle rumour had it that he had been poisoned by Irish Republican sympathisers whilst sharing a few drinks in his Horncastle local.

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