Pádraig Ó Domhnaill

Pádraig Mhícheál Airt Ó Domhnaill or Patrick O'Donnell, (born 1835, Gweedore, County Donegal, died 17 December 1883, London) was responsible for killing James Carey, leader of the group that carried out the Phoenix Park Murders in Dublin, Ireland.

The Phoenix Park murders and Carey's death

On 6 May 1882, the most senior Irish civil servant, the Permanent Undersecretary, Thomas Henry Burke and the newly appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland, Lord Frederick Cavendish – who was also the nephew of Prime Minister William Gladstone – were stabbed to death as they walked though the Phoenix Park in Dublin.

The hunt for the perpetrators was led by Police Superintendent John Mallon. James Carey, a town councilman in Dublin, was arrested but he struck a deal and turned Queen's evidence, agreeing to testify against his co-accused. Five men were hanged at Kilmainham Jail for the killings between May and June 1883 because of his testimony. They were: Joe Brady, Daniel Curley, Tim Kelly (19 years of age), Thomas Caffrey and Michael Fagan. In exchange for betraying his former comrades, Carey was given safe passage to South Africa.

Under the assumed name "Power", Carey travelled on the steamer Kinfauns Castle, with his wife and seven children, and then on the Melrose for the second part of the voyage. O'Donnell, who had come from the USA via Donegal and London, travelled on the same ships, in company with a young Donegal woman who purported to be his wife (in fact he was still married to another woman). Carey kept up his assumed identity for most of the voyage, but later he let his guard drop, provoking a row in Cape Town and displaying his revolver. A barman there became aware of Carey's real identity, and informed O'Donnell.

The two men had been drinking together in the second class cabin aboard the Melrose before the shots were fired, somewhere between Table Bay and Algoa Bay. O'Donnell shot Carey in the neck and twice more in the back as he staggered away.

O'Donnell was arrested and sent back to London to stand trial at the Old Bailey and was executed for murder on the high seas, on 17 December 1883 at Newgate prison, aged 48.

Jubilation throughout Ireland
On hearing of Carey's murder, there was jubilation on the streets throughout Ireland. Eight huge bonfires were lit around his home in Dublin, effigies in his likeness were burned and bands playing nationalist tunes marched followed by hordes of people.

After the death sentence was passed and the Judge refused to let him speak O'Donnell shouted "Three cheers for old Ireland! Hurrah for the United States! To hell with the British Crown!"

O'Donnell's Trial

Represented by Sir Charles Russell, afterward Lord Chief Justice of England, A. M. Sullivan, Mr. Guy and assisted by General Roger A. Pryor, of the American bar, sent on behalf of the Irish-Americans.

In Memoriam

A plaque commemorating O'Donnell's execution stands at his birthplace in Mín an Chladaigh, Gweedore. A huge crowd assembled in Gweedore, on 22 January 1884, to celebrate a mass for the repose of his soul. There followed a mock funeral and an empty coffin was placed in the O'Donnell family burial plot, his followers kneeling in prayer around the grave. Wreaths of immortelles were placed on the coffin which bore the inscription Sacred to the memory of Patrick O'Donnell, executed at London 17th of December, 1883.

The Celtic Cross

A monument was erected in Derrybeg, Gweedore, in the year following his execution. Its inauguration attended by villagers and family alike. The local priest at the time expressed his disapproval of a monument commemorating a man who committed murder. It stands tall, between the former town hall and a pub to commemorate the sacrifice of a local hero. The enscription on the cross reads as follows, I ndíl chuimhe ar Pádraig Ó Domhnaill as paróiste Gaoth Dobhair a cuireadh chun báis i bpríosún Newgate i Londain ar an 17 Nollaig 1883 de thairbhe a ard dílseacht d'Éirinn, which translates as In memory of Patrick O'Donnell from the parish of Gweedore who was sent to death in prison in Newgate in London on the 17 December 1883 because of his loyalty to Ireland.

Glasnevin Cemetery

A memorial in his honour was erected by a Ladies committee from New York and the newspaper Irish World at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. It reads "In Memory of Patrick O'Donnell. who heroically gave up his life for Ireland in London, England 17th December 1883. Not tears but prayers for the dead who died for Ireland". His remains have been located by the National Graves Association and a plaque was placed on the site.

Tribute by the Irish-Americans

Several pleas were made for his life by Victor Hugo and by other important personalities abroad, notably in the United States. The US Library of Congress archives has a poster depicting a highly patriotic tribute to Patrick O'Donnell along with a popular song written in his honour. Many Irish republicans in County Donegal and abroad would have sung it for their latest martyr.

In memoriam! Patrick O'Donnell, executed in London, December 17, 1883 ... Brooklyn, N.Y. Bartrams' printer. 149 William St. c. 1884. | Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division


Long, Long shall his name in our memory remain,
And the words that he uttered, our hearts will inflame.
The shot that he fired, caused traitors to shake;
He dearly loved Ireland, and died for her sake.

While they pinioned his arms, he smiled on the slave,

And his cruel executors admitted him brave.
Oh! had we ten thousand such heroes as he,
Our country no longer in bondage would be.

Cursed be the Saxon! how could they deny,

The remains of our hero in Ireland to lie.
And in the grave of his Fathers, why not let him rest,
In the land of the Shamrock, with those he loved best.

But O'Donnell has gone! he has died for our cause!

He was brutally murdered by England's vile laws.
May his soul rest in Heaven with the Angels of Light,
Is the prayer that we offer up, morning and night.

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