Dunne and O’Sullivan


At the Old Bailey, and before Mr Justice Shearman, Dunne and O’Sullivan were both tried together for the murder of Sir Henry Wilson on 2 July

1922. Dunne stood with his arms folded while the charge was being read while O’Sullivan stood stiffly at attention. When Dunne was asked, “Are you guilty or not guilty?” he replied “I admit shooting Sir Henry Wilson.” “Are you guilty or not guilty of the murder?” the Clerk of Arraigns repeated. “That is the only statement I can make,” was the response. O’Sullivan made a similar reply and after some discussion the plea was treated as one of “Not guilty.”
Towards the end of the trial, which lasted just three hours, the defence Counsel handed the judge a double sheet of blue official paper given to him by Dunne. After perusing the contents Mr Justice Shearman said –

“I cannot allow this to be read. It is not a defence to the jury at all. It is a political manifesto…I say clearly, openly, and manifestly it is a justification of the right to kill.”

The text of Dunne’s intended last statement, as transcribed from the images in this post.

“Lord and Members of the Jury. My friend and I stand here before you today charged with the offense of murder; and I have no doubt that, from the evidence placed before you by the prosecution, you will find us both guilty. With respect to the charges of attempted murder, we merely tried, as everyone must know, to try and escape arrest.

The offence of murder is a very serious matter; so much so, that any act which results in loss of human life requires very grave and substantial reason. We have never until now been charged with any crime. As you have heard from the Police Officer, who gave evidence as to our character and our previous records, we have both been in the British Army. We both joined voluntarily, for the purpose of [making Europe safe?] in order that the principles for which this country stood, should be upheld and preserved. These principles, we were told, were Self-Determination and Freedom for Small Nations. We both, as I have said, fought for these principles, and were commended for doing so; and I imagine that several of you gentlemen of this jury did likewise. We came back from France to find that Self-Determination had been given to some Nations we had never heard of, but that it had been denied to Ireland, We found, on the contrary that our Country was being divided into two Countries; that a Government had been set up for the Belfast district, and that under that Government outrages were being perpetrated, that are a disgrace to civilization — many of the outrages being committed by men in uniform and in the pay of the Belfast Government. We took our part in supporting the aspiration of our fellow Countrymen, in the same way as we took part in supporting the nations of the world who fought for the right of small nationalities.

Who was Sir Henry Wilson? What was his policy? And what did he stand for? You have all read in the newspapers lately, and been told, that he was a great British Field Marshal; but his activities in other fields are unknown to the men of the British public. The nation to which we have the honour to belong, the Irish nation, knows him, not so much as the British Field Marshal, but as the man behind what is known in Ireland as the Orange Terror. He was at the time of his death the Military Advisor to what is colloquially called the Ulster Government, and as Military Advisor he raised and organized a body of men known as the Ulster Special Constabulary, who are the principle agents in his campaign of terrorism.

My Lord and Members of the Jury, I do not propose to go into details of the horrible outrages committed on men, women and children of my race in Belfast and other places under the jurisdiction of the Ulster Government. Among Irishmen it is well known that about 500 men, women and children have been killed within the past few months, nearly two thousand wounded, and not one offender brought to justice. More than 9000 persons have been expelled from their employment; and 23,000 men, women, and children driven from their homes. All the big cities of this country and even those of Northern France are now receiving these refugees. Sir Henry Wilson was the representative figure and the organizer of the system that made these things possible.

At his suggestion and advice the Ulster Parliament passed an Act authorizing the [purging?] of political opponents and this power is now exercised and enforced by the Courts in Ulster.

There is and can be no political liberty in a country where one political party outrages, oppresses, and intimidates not only its political opponents, but persons whose religious opinion differ from those of the party in power. The same principle for which we shed our blood on the Battle Field of Europe led us to commit the act we are charged with.

My Lord and Members of the Jury, you can condemn us to death today, but you cannot deprive us of the belief that what we have done was necessary to preserve the lives, the homes, and the happiness of our countrymen in Ireland. You may by your verdict find us guilty, but we will go [to] the scaffold justified by the verdict of our own Conscience. Dunne truncated his statement to “cut out the patriotic adjectives I feel inclined to use under the present circumstances” (as well as his specific delineation of the atrocities of Henry Wilson and the Ulster government).” -END.

Dunne and O’Sullivan were sentenced to death by hanging and sent to Wandsworth gaol where they were both hanged together by the executioner John Ellis on the 10th August 1922.