1916 courts martial and executions: Michael O’Hanrahan

‘Acted under orders’of his ‘superiors’

Michael O’Hanrahan, who fought at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, told his court martial he “acted under the orders” of his “superiors”, documents from the court martial files show.

O’Hanrahan (39) was an officer under Comdtt Thomas MacDonagh, who led Dublin’s 2nd Battalion. He was arrested when the Volunteers surrendered there, on April 30th, his file, stored at the British National Archives, in Kew, London, shows.

Only seven pages in total, the file shows O’Hanrahan’s trial was held on May 3rd, and he was judged by Brig Gen Charles Blackader, Lieut Col George German and Lieut Col William Kent. The charge against him was that he took part in the armed rebellion with the intention and for the purpose of assisting the enemy. O’Hanrahan pleaded not guilty.

The sole witness against him was the same man who gave evidence against Con Colbert, Maj JA Armstrong.


“I was present at St Patrick’s Park on 30 April,” he said.

“The British troops were fired upon and there were several casualties. The fire came from the neighbourhood of Jacob’s Factory.”

He said on the same day a surrender was arranged.

“I saw the surrender being arranged by Mr MacDonagh,” he told the three judges.

“Over 100 men arrived from Jacob’s Factory as a result of the surrender and another large body arrived from the same direction as a result of the surrender. The accused belonged to one of the parties,” he said.

“He was in uniform and armed. After the surrender he was removed to Richmond Barracks. He said he was an officer.”

When cross-examined by O’Hanrahan, Maj Armstrong said all the officers appeared to be armed with pistols or revolvers.

“I cannot say whether he was armed or not, but all unarmed were placed on a separate list. The accused is not in that list,” he said. He also said the shots that caused the casualties came from the immediate neighbourhood of Jacob’s Factory.

O’Hanrahan did not call any witnesses but made a short statement. “As a soldier of the Republican Army, acting under the orders of the Provisional Government of that Republic duly constituted, I acted under the orders of my superiors.”

Gen John Maxwell confirmed the guilty findings of the court and O’Hanrahan was executed on May 4th, with Joseph Plunkett and Willie Pearse, in the stonebreaker’s yard at Kilmainham jail.