The Irish State has apologised for the execution of a farm labourer in 1941 - here's why

Hanged: Harry Gleeson
Hanged: Harry Gleeson

The Irish Government has apologised for the state execution of a farm labourer almost three-quarters of a century after he was wrongly convicted of murdering a woman.

Harry Gleeson was sentenced to death and hanged for the November 1940 killing of single mother-of-seven Moll McCarthy, whose body he discovered in a field in Marlhill, County Tipperary, where she had been shot twice in the face.

A Government-ordered review of the case, after pressure from justice campaigners, has found the Garda and prosecutors withheld crucial evidence from his trial.

After the report concluded Mr Gleeson was convicted and executed on the basis of unconvincing circumstantial evidence, he will become the first person to receive a posthumous pardon from the Irish state.

In a statement, the Government said it "deeply regrets" the miscarriage of justice.

"All that can be done now by way of remedy is to clear his name of the conviction, which this pardon will do, in the hope that this will be a proper tribute to his memory," it said. "Equally the government regrets that this decision leaves unresolved the brutal murder of Ms McCarthy, whose children were deprived of their mother in terrible circumstances.

"The government wishes to express its sympathy with both families and with all those affected by this crime and the subsequent conviction."

The cold case review by barrister Shane Murphy found prosecutors failed in their duty to ensure a fair trial by not calling as witnesses Mr Gleeson's uncle and aunt, John and Brigid Ceasar, with whom he lived.

A Garda statement suggesting the force staged a confrontation between Mr Gleeson and Ms McCarthy's children was apparently withheld from the court and jury during the case, it was found.

There were also inconsistencies in medical evidence in the trial, while the prosecution didn't reveal to the jury ammunition evidence from a shotgun register which further cast doubt on Mr Gleeson's alleged guilt, the report states.

President Michael D Higgins will now be advised to exercise his never before used right of pardon.

Mr Gleeson, who had strongly protested his innocence right up to his execution, was refused an appeal. A mercy plea to save his life was turned down by the then government, under Taoiseach Eamon de Valera.

He was executed by British hangman Albert Pierrepoint on April 23, 1941.

His case was championed by the Irish Innocence Project and the Justice for Harry Gleeson group.