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President Higgins set to sign posthumous pardon for man executed in 1895

The pardon will be the fifth Presidential pardon since 1937 and the third posthumous pardon.

Image: RollingNews.ie

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins is expected to sign a posthumous Presidential pardon today for a man who was executed in January 1895.

John Twiss was executed in 1895 after being found guilty of murdering John Donovan near the Cork/Kerry border in 1894.

The pardon was granted approval by the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee on 30 November, after an expert review of the case clearly pointed to a wrongful conviction.

The pardon will be the fifth Presidential pardon since 1937 and the third posthumous pardon.

After the approval was granted by McEntee, Taoiseach Micheál Martin made arrangements to convey the Government’s decision to President Higgins.

Higgins had previously backed the calls for a Presidential pardon to be issued to Twiss.

In April 1894, Twiss was one of two people arrested and charged with the murder of Donovan.

Donovan was a caretaker of a farm, from which a family was recently evicted, and was taken from the house late at night and beaten, before being shot in the arm.

Neighbors found Donovan alive the next morning, but he died shortly after.

Twiss was subsequently arrested, alongside one other man and was put on trial.

The only evidence against Twiss was identification evidence from Donovan’s 7-year-old son, who witnessed the attack and identified Twiss during the second identity parade. Two further witnesses were produced by police two months after his arrest.

Twiss was tried in early 1895, with the trial lasting for three days, between 7 and 9 January.

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The case taken by the prosecution was that Twiss was hired to carry out the murder, with the jury being convinced of his guilt and he was sentenced to death by hanging.

The Fermoy Town Commissioners wrote to the Lord Lieutenant in Dublin Castle on 30 January 1895, alongside a petition with 40,000 signatures, seeking for a Prerogative of Mercy to be issued.

While the letter was acknowledged, Twiss’ release was refused. “The law must take its course,” read a statement from Dublin Castle.

In a statement after recommending a pardon be granted, McEntee said that a very high bar has to be reached for pardons to be considered by the Government.

“The granting of a Presidential pardon is a rare occurrence and a very high bar must be reached for consideration to be given by Government to make such a recommendation to the President.

This case is quite well known, particularly in Kerry, and is regarded as a clear historic injustice. In reaching a decision on this matter, I have carefully considered the expert report commissioned by the then Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan TD, and the additional evidence provided by the Michael O’Donohoe Memorial Heritage Project. I would also like to particularly acknowledge the work of Mr John Roche who has engaged extensively with my officials on this matter.

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