MICHAEL MANNING WAS THE LAST PERSON EXECUTED IN IRELAND IN 1954.

MICHAEL MANNING WAS AN IRISH MURDERER WHO BECAME THE TWENTY-NINTH AND LAST PERSON TO BE EXECUTED IN IRELAND.

MANNING, A 25-YEAR-OLD CARTER FROM JOHNSGATE IN LIMERICK, WAS FOUND GUILTY OF THE RAPE AND MURDER OF CATHERINE COOPER, A 65-YEAR-OLD NURSE WHO WORKED AT BARRINGTON’S HOSPITAL IN THE CITY, IN FEBRUARY 1954. NURSE COOPER’S BODY WAS DISCOVERED ON THE 18TH OF NOVEMBER 1953 IN THE QUARRY UNDER THE NEW CASTLE, DUBLIN ROAD, CASTLETROY, WHERE SHE WAS FOUND TO HAVE CHOKED ON GRASS STUFFED INTO HER MOUTH TO KEEP HER FROM SCREAMING DURING THE COMMITTAL OF THE CRIME.

MANNING EXPRESSED REMORSE FOR THE CRIME, WHICH HE DID NOT DENY. BY HIS OWN ACCOUNT, HE WAS MAKING HIS WAY HOME ON FOOT AFTER A DAY’S DRINKING IN THE BLACK SWAN, ANNACOTTY, WHEN HE SAW A WOMAN HE DID NOT RECOGNISE WALKING ALONE. “I SUDDENLY LOST MY HEAD AND JUMPED ON THE WOMAN AND REMEMBER NO MORE UNTIL THE LIGHTS OF A CAR SHONE ON ME.” HE TOOK FLIGHT AT THIS POINT BUT WAS ARRESTED WITHIN HOURS AFTER HIS DISTINCTIVE HAT WAS FOUND AT THE CRIME SCENE.

ALTHOUGH MANNING MADE AN IMPASSIONED PLEA FOR CLEMENCY IN A LETTER TO MINISTER FOR JUSTICE GERALD BOLAND, HIS REQUEST WAS DENIED DESPITE IT ALSO BEING SUPPORTED BY NURSE COOPER’S FAMILY. THE EXECUTION BY HANGING WAS DULY CARRIED OUT ON THE 20TH OF APRIL 1954 IN MOUNTJOY PRISON, DUBLIN, BY ALBERT PIERREPOINT, WHO HAD TRAVELLED FROM BRITAIN, WHERE HE WAS ONE OF THREE SENIOR EXECUTIONERS.

FRANK PRENDERGAST, SUBSEQUENTLY TD FOR LIMERICK EAST WHO KNEW MANNING WELL, RECALLED LATER, “FRIENDS OF MINE WHO WORKED WITH ME, I WAS SERVING MY TIME AT THE TIME, WENT UP TO VISIT HIM ON SUNDAY BEFORE HE WAS HANGED. AND THEY WENT TO MASS AND HOLY COMMUNION TOGETHER, AND THEY PLAYED A GAME OF HANDBALL THAT DAY. HE COULDN’T HAVE BEEN MORE NORMAL.”

MANNING LEFT A WIFE WHO WAS PREGNANT WITH THEIR FIRST CHILD AT THE MURDER. HIS BODY WAS BURIED IN AN UNMARKED GRAVE IN A YARD AT MOUNTJOY PRISON. THE DEATH PENALTY WAS ABOLISHED IN 1964 FOR ALL BUT THE MURDER OF GARDAÍ, DIPLOMATS AND PRISON OFFICERS. IT WAS ABOLISHED BY STATUTE FOR THESE REMAINING OFFENCES IN 1990 AND WAS FINALLY EXPUNGED FROM THE CONSTITUTION OF IRELAND BY A REFERENDUM IN 2001.

THE HANGING OF MICHAEL MANNING INSPIRED A PLAY BY CIARAN CREAGH. CREAGH’S FATHER, TIMOTHY, WAS ONE OF THE TWO PRISON OFFICERS WHO STAYED WITH MICHAEL MANNING ON HIS LAST NIGHT, AND THE LAST CALL IS LOOSELY BASED ON WHAT HAPPENED. IT WAS SHOWN IN MOUNTJOY PRISON’S THEATRE FOR THREE NIGHTS IN JUNE 2006.

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