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Sunday 28 May 2023 Dublin: 15°C
# The Innocence Project
What happens if you're imprisoned for a crime you didn't commit?
The Innocence Project came to attention this week after securing a posthumous pardon for Harry Gleeson – but most of their cases are live ones.

YOU MIGHT HAVE heard that earlier this week that Harry Gleeson became the first person in the history of the Irish State to receive a posthumous pardon.

This came 74 years after he was hanged for the murder of Mary ‘Moll’ McCarthy – a crime he was wrongly convicted of.

This historic judgement was in large part thanks to the work of the Irish Innocence Project. The group is part of an international network that aims at exonerating wrongly convicted individuals. The Irish branch was established in 1999 by David Langwallner.

The Harry Gleeson case

Speaking to, Langwallner explains that the starting point for taking on the case came when he was approached by the Justice for Harry Gleeson group from Tipperary who had already been campaigning for Gleeson’s innocence.

Initially there was a reluctance to take it on due to the nature of the case.

“They approached me, the Justice for Harry Gleeson Group, I initially had to be kind of persuaded because we were only taking on live cases and this was a dead case.

“They said this is a huge local issue in Tipperary so I persuaded the project to give it a go,” he said.

And all of a sudden we find out all sorts of surprising and interesting things.

Once evidence of Gleeson’s innocence had been correlated – Langwallner set in place the action that this week resulted in a posthumous pardon for Gleeson by Minister for Justice, France Fitzgerald.

On the reason Gleeson was wrongly convicted in the first place, Langwallner said, “it is probably true that it was a combination of people, perhaps politicians, perhaps the clergy – who availed of their services – who wanted to dispose of this.”

The Innocence Project 

Generally, most of the work the project deals with are live cases.

It is currently looking at around 25 inmates in both Ireland and internationally. One of the main issues faced by the group is the opposition posed by vested interests. Langwallner explains:

Everyone is watching their own backs so the Innocence Project is like a little minnow coming up against a big shark or something like that. And frankly I’ve been swallowed a few times and it is not a pleasant experience.
It is very difficult to get things moving forward in this country that are radically innovative.

One key thing for the group is ensuring the innocence of any person’s case that they take on. To do this any potential subjects are rigorously vetted. Much of the reason people come to the group is that their cases are considered to be off of the main-stream agenda:

And it is very much is that your dealing with what Marilyn Monroe might call the fudgy end of the lollipop. The cases you are getting are the fag end of the system where everybody has lost interest.


Despite this big victory things have not been easy in recent times for The Innocence Project. Currently the group is unable to provide the funding for a permanent manager.

While they are supported by Griffith College – this does not sufficiently cover their financing and the group is a registered charity.

The majority of their staff is made up of students and voluntary supervising lawyers.

While the project struggles with these issues, Langwallner is optimistic that the group, which is 16 years old this year, will be able to continue for a time to come.

The inaugural Wrongful Conviction Film Festival and Conference will be on at the end of June. Speaking at the conference will be Barry Scheck, co-founder of the international Innocence Project, and Gareth Peirce who represented the Guildford Four.

You can donate to the Irish Innocence Project on their website here.

Read: Irish man pardoned for murder conviction 74 years after his execution

Also: Kim Cattrall thinks Brendan Gleeson is ridier than Jamie Dornan… is she right?

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