The Irish Shot at Dawn Campaign to secure pardons for Irish born British soldiers executed for military offences 1914 -18

In deference to our many supporters this website was inaugurated to record their support

Channel 4.History / lost Generation / Irish Shot at Dawn / Irish Virtual WW1 Memorial - Click Here

RTE TV - Irish Shot at Dawn - Nov 2008

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Irish Executed WW1 Irish Statistics WW1 Executions Irish Report Irish Government British Government Irish Times March 2006 Shared History Ireland on Sunday Shot in 1915 Legion D'Honneuer Paddy Reilly's Dead Shot at Dawn Officers Pardoned Articles Cenotaph Parade 2005 Book Review France November 2007 Memorial Plaque


On Tuesday 28th March 2006 Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern T.D laid before the Oireachtas a report prepared by his Department into the courts-martial and executions of 26 Irish-Born Soldiers by the British Army during the First World War. The Minister called for pardons for these Irish soldiers executed during the First World War (‘Shot at Dawn’). He stated:

  1. Our unwavering objective is to engage in finding an agreed resolution on this issue that would bring comfort to the families of those executed.

  2. The Minister recalled that this year marked the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. He stressed that it was in the spirit of recognising the experience and sacrifice of all our countrymen who fell during the First World War, that the Government had lent its support to the campaign to secure pardons for those Irish men who were 'shot at dawn'.

  3. It is our objective to recover their memory from the dishonour that was done to them some 90 years ago.

  4. A Debate was subsequently held in the Seanad on the Irish Shot at Dawn. see Irish Seanad Debates-Shot at Dawn Campaign: Statements.

The formal outing on the 28th March 2006 of the Irish Government Report into the execution of 26 Irish Born British Soldiers during world war one for various alleged military offences is the fullfillment of the Irish Government's obligation to the Irish campaign and signals the conclusion of the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl effort. In consequence of the unanimous cross community Irish support for pardons and as the granting of pardons for British and Commonwealth soldiers executed for various alleged military offences during world war one is a sovereign matter for Her Majesty's Government to resolve, the onus is therefore on the British Government to vindicate the good names of all who were executed. On behalf of our relatives, our solid campaigners and our resolute supporters throughout Ireland and further afield, we wish to indicate our gratitude to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Dermot Ahern T.D and his officials for their support  (Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léar).

The Conclusion of the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl Effort

The passing into British law of  the PARDONS FOR SERVICEMEN EXECUTED FOR DISCIPLINARY OFFENCES: RECOGNITION AS VICTIMS OF FIRST WORLD WAR on Wednesday 8th November 2006 meets the objective of the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl, in that, the amendment is a political mechanism which allows for restrospective pardons in world war one execution cases with an extra safeguard (the amendment will not affect the Royal Prerogative of Mercy) giving families the right to petition for the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, if they so wish. It should be noted that the NEW ZEALAND PARDON FOR SOLDIERS OF THE GREAT WAR ACT 2000 and Mr Justice Burnton’s opinion 1 in the Farr case (May 2005), set both the political and legal parameters for future British action on the pardons issue. While this amendment is flawed, we believe, that  it goes some way towards meeting the NZ pardons Act, which was primarily introduced to remove in so far as practible the stigma of dishonour attached to the executions of New Zealand soldiers and which also did not quash the conviction or sentence of their executed.

Despite the fact that this British pardon will not overturn the original verdicts or sentence we are satisfied taking into account DES BROWN'S STATEMENT OF CLARIFICATION ON THE 18TH SEPTEMBER 2006 together with the Minister’s concluding remarks during the COMMONS DEBATE - 7TH NOVEMBER 2006, that the intention of the pardon is to remove the dishonour of the execution and that it stands as a recognition that execution was not a fate that the servicemen deserved. This will conclude the Irish campaign effort. The SHOT AT DAWN CAMPAIGN IRL, would like to take this opportunity to commend the moral courage of DEFENCE SECRETARY, THE RT HON DES BROWN MP for his positive action on the WW1 pardons issue. We would also like to express our gratitude to the MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS MR DERMOT AHERN TD and his staff in Iveagh House for their enduring support for our efforts. There have been many organisations, politicians of different hues, councils, trades unions, THE MEDIA and particularly the ordinary man and woman in the street throughout Ireland and further afield who supported the Irish Shot at Dawn Campaign over the years and who are now entitled to share in the collective credit. On behalf of our families we thank you all.

1 In an application in May of 2005, Mr Justice Stanley Burnton found that there was 'room for argument' that he (Private Harry Farr) had been wrongly refused a conditional pardon. However Mr Justice Burnton also declared inter alia that the family of Private Farr lacked the legal grounds for a free pardon......thereby ruling out the *free pardon/full pardon option in a leading case which many observers believe to be one of the most deserving of a free pardon/full pardon.  Significantly, Mr Justice Burnton's opinion effectively raised the legal bar by setting a precedent insofar as future applications for pardons in world war one execution cases would only be dealth with on the basis of the 'room for argument' principle via the conditional pardon route...legally capping future British political outcomes to the pardons issue.  Consequently, the legal limitations of the 'room for argument' principle via the conditional pardon  route first enunciated by Mr Justice Burnton in the Farr case in May 2005, are now reflected in the 2006 British Pardons Amendment. *A free pardon/full pardon is understood to mean a pardon not encumbered by any expressly stated constraint or weighted legal, parliamentary or royal impediment narrowing its scope or effect.

Re an Irish Pardon for Irish born British soldiers Shot at Dawn: On the pretext that such a measure would be persuasive in encouraging a British Government to look more sympathetically at the pardons issue it was suggested during the campaign particularly by Andrew MacKinlay MP and some individuals in the UK associated with the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign, that the Irish Government should independently proceed and pardon all our Irish born executed British soldiers irrespective of any British determination on the matter, effectively calling for an Irish panacea to a British dilemma prior to any final adjudication in the Farr case and significantly without consulting with the Irish campaign effort ignoring our concerns. Those that mooted such a course of action should note the following. Constitutional obstacles and political sensitivities would have dictated that any pardon an Irish Government might have considered would only have effected those Irish born in the Republic of Ireland, would have excluded those who were born in Northern Ireland, would not have effected the soldiers courts martial file it being held by the Ministry of Defence outside Irish jurisdiction, and taking into account historical concerns would ultimately have been divisive. Such an Irish pardon is, and was, never worth a penny candle, and if introduced would have needlessly jeopardized the interests of our Irish families during a very sensitive time in the Irish Shot at Dawn Campaign. It is to their inestimable credit that the Irish Government took the advice of the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl resisted that pressure and disregarded those UK representations on behalf of the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign, a decision later vindicated by the introduction of the 2006 British Pardons Amendment.

Major Exhibition Dublin: Soldiers and Chiefs: The Irish at War at Home and Abroad, 1550-2001. SS Ardmore exhibit now on display
National Museum of Ireland
Lost Generation

Note: Founded on the 27th June 2002 The Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl co-ordinated by the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46)  is an independent Irish based group who successfully campaigned to persuade the British Government to grant pardons to 26 Irish born British soldiers in particular and 275 other ranks in the British Army who were executed during world war one for various military offences which ceased in 1929 to be punishable by death:

Webpages updated: Saturday 3rd October 2009:


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© Peter Mulvany 1986-2009