Top 10 most FAMOUS executions in Ireland (ALL-TIME)

Want to brush up on some gory Irish history? Read on for some of the most famous executions in Ireland.

Top 10 most FAMOUS executions in Ireland (ALL-TIME).

Ireland has a long history peppered with rebellions, uprisings and revolutions. Capital punishment was abolished in 1964.

However, we still have a history of rather gruesome deaths, many of which occurred in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising. Here are the top ten most famous executions in Ireland.

10. Sir Phelim Roe O’Neill of Kinard (1653) – threatened by the English Protestant ruling of Ireland

Sir Phelim Roe O'Neill of Kinard was one of the most famous executions in Ireland of all time.

An Irish soldier and politician, O’Neill was responsible for starting the Irish Rebellion in Ulster in 1641. Well-versed in uprisings, he also fought in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

Eventually, in 1653, following the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, despite efforts to go into hiding, he was captured, tried and executed.

9. Rory O’More (1655) – one of the four main organisers of the Irish Rebellion in 1641

One of the main organisers of the Irish Rebellion in 1641.

Rory O’More was an Irish landowner who played a role in the 1641 Rebellion against English rule. He was captured by the English forces, tried for treason, and executed in 1655.

8. Oliver Plunkett (1681) – the first new Irish saint in nearly a millennium

Oliver Plunkett was one of the most famous executions in Ireland of all time.
Credit: Flickr/ Lawrence OP

The Irish Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Oliver Plunkett, was accused of involvement in an alleged plan to overthrow the English government. Plunkett was arrested, tried, and eventually executed in London.

While not an execution that was carried out in Ireland, it’s one of the most famous executions in Ireland due to his canonisation in 1975, becoming the first new Irish saint in almost seven hundred years.

7. Father Nicolas Sheehy (1766) – potential victim of wrongful execution

Father Nicolas Sheehy was one of the most famous executions in Ireland of all time.

Vocally against the Penal Laws that oppressed many Irish Catholics, Fr. Sheehy was accused of the murder of John Bridge, an informer who had disappeared.

Despite apparently fabricated evidence against Fr. Sheehy, he was hung, drawn and quartered while asserting his innocence.

His head was stuck on a spike over Clonmel Gaol as a warning to other potential dissenters. He is buried at Shanrahan Cemetery, near Clogheen, County Tipperary.

6. Henry Sheares (1798) – inspired by the French fighting spirit

Henry Sheares was one of the most famous executions in Ireland of all time.

The older brother of John Sheares, Henry Sheares, was an Irish lawyer and republican.

After being inspired by revolutionary events in Paris, where they heard tales of the execution of Louis XVI, the pair became committed to democratic reform in their homeland. Henry was executed on the eve of the 1798 Rising.

5. John Sheares (1798) – executed alongside his older brother

Executed alongside his brothers.
Credit: Flickr/ William Murphy

Indicted alongside his brother at the height of 1798 rising, John suffered the same fate as his older brother on 14 July 1798. The pair are buried in St. Michan’s Church in Dublin.

4. James Connolly (1916) – Dublin Connolly station’s namesake

James Connolly was one of the most famous executions in Ireland of all time.

Edinburgh-born Connolly came to Ireland first as a member of the British Army. However, upon his return to Scotland, he was motivated to get involved in Irish politics, seeing the strong Irish presence in the Scottish capital.

In 1896, he founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party, and he was appointed Commandant-General of the Dublin forces occupying the General Post Office during the Easter Rising.

In one of the most famous executions in Ireland, Connolly was so injured following the Rising that he had to be executed sitting down.

3. Patrick Pearse (1916) – Irish language scholar and freedom fighter

Patrick Pearse was one of the most famous executions in Ireland of all time.

A literary scholar, Patrick Pearse graduated from the Royal University in 1901 and published work both in Irish and English.

Passionate about Irish freedom and the preservation of the national language, he founded the Irish Volunteers, authoring the Proclamation of Independence and setting up various Irish medium schools such as Coláiste Éanna.

As Commander in Chief of the Irish forces present in the G.P.O during the Rising, he was executed shortly afterwards. 

2. Joseph Mary Plunkett (1916) – a tragic love story

A tragic love story.

Responsible for setting up an Irish national theatre, Plunkett was also passionate about Irish literature and arts and acted as an editor of the Irish Review.

During the planning stages of the Rising, he was appointed Director of Military Operations.

In one of the most heartbreakingly famous executions in Ireland, Plunkett married his lover, Grace Gifford, in Kilmainham Gaol prior to his execution by firing squad, inspiring the famous song by The Dubliners.

1. Roger Casement (1916) – one of the only leaders of the Rising to be executed outside of Ireland

Roger Casement was one of the most famous executions in Ireland of all time.

Known for writing nationalist articles under the pseudonym ‘Seán Bhean Bhocht’, he retired from the British consular service in 1913 following a knighthood for his service to the British consulate.

He shortly after became a member of the Irish Volunteers. Charged with High Treason in Pentonville gaol in London, he was hanged there in August 1916, the only Rising leader to be executed outside of Ireland.

Find Your Dream Hotel in Ireland

On the hunt for the ultimate hotel for your Irish adventure? Explore a curated selection ranging from the charming heritage of boutique accommodations in Dublin's vibrant heart to the tranquil luxury of rural retreats and the captivating coastal vistas. Start your search below to find the perfect stay with our trusted hotel partner.

Get featured on Ireland Before You Die

Do you want to get your Irish business more online exposure? Especially to those interested in travelling the best places in Ireland? Then why not get a dedicated feature on Ireland Before You Die. Find out more here.

Related Posts


Ireland Before You Die is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Send this to a friend