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Kilmainham Gaol marks 100 years since first Civil War executions

A special exhibition marking the centenary includes the original last letters of Peter Cassidy and James Fisher.

TODAY MARKS THE centenary of the first executions of Ireland’s Civil War, which targeted four young men from Dublin.

On 17 November 1922, Peter Cassidy, James Fisher, John Gaffney and Richard Twohig were executed at 7am in the yards of Kilmainham Gaol.

All four had each been charged with the unauthorised possession of a revolver and were tried at a military court in Wellington Barracks

The Office of Public Works (OPW) at Kilmainham Gaol Museum has organised a special exhibition marking the centenary, including the original last letters of Peter Cassidy and James Fisher.

The OPW described the letters as “particularly poignant” because none of the young men were allowed to see their loved ones before their executions.

Their letters express pride about ‘dying for Ireland’ but also show their distress at not being allowed to say goodbye to their families.

Ending his letter, James Fisher wrote: “To my Mother I dearly love, Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye. We will meet again in Heaven please God, Mother. God strengthen you in this ordeal Mother. I am to die for Ireland.”

The exhibition features items that have not been on public display before, including a memorial card for John Gaffney and a letter sent to Peter Cassidy’s parents by Phil Foley, who had been a prisoner with the four men in Wellington Barracks.

Foley described the four being removed from the barracks after breakfast on 16 November.

The following day, he learned about their executions in the evening newspapers.

In the new year, another exhibition will open looking at the executions that took place in the Gaol in January 1923.

Before the end of the civil war in May 1923, a total of 81 prisoners were executed, with more than 12,000 taken prisoner in total.

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