The 1916 Courtmartial files

In the three weeks after the 1916 Rising, 159 men and one woman were tried by field general courts martial. Between 2 May and 12 May, the leaders of the Rising, including the seven signatories of the Proclamation, were tried and executed.

At their trials, the prisoners were not legally represented or permitted to give evidence on their own behalf. They did not have access to the rules under which the trials were being held. The trials were held in camera; no press, lawyers or public were admitted. Most trials appear to have lasted less than 20 minutes.

None of the officers conducting these trials had legal qualifications and there was no judge advocate to give legal rulings or a summing up. 90 death sentences were passed, 15 were carried out. The executions ended as public revulsion increased at the drawn-out slaughter of the rebels, which played a large part in the post-Rising change in public opinion which ultimately led to Sinn Féin's victory in the 1918 general election.

This website contains digital images of the 15 courtmartial files of the executed leaders. The originals, released to the public in 2001, are in the custody of The National Archives in London; the images are displayed under licence from TNA. The website has a searchable database relating to the files, which can also be browsed by name. There are also two essays, one by Dr. Fearghal McGarry on the general context of the trials, the other by Dr. Myles Dungan on their dubious legality.

These are the basic records of one of the most eventful and fateful processes in modern Irish history.

Purchase of the digital images of these records was made possible by Universities Ireland, the umbrella body which promotes co-operation between all the universities on the Island of Ireland. The purchase forms part of their extensive Decade of Centenaries programme. Further details can be found at

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