A Galway man wrongly convic-ted and hanged for the murder of a family of five in 1882 will be remembered next month ahead of efforts in the British Houses of Parliament to declare the conviction a miscarriage of justice.
Myles Joyce, who only spoke Irish, was one of three men hanged for the murder of the Joyce family — John Joyce, his wife Bridget, daughter Peigí, mother Margaret, and his son, Michael — at Maamtrasna on the Galway/Mayo border.
The case became infamous when it was heard in front of a Dublin jury that had no Irish, and because Myles Joyce’s solicitor spoke only English. The evidence given by Myles through Irish in court was ignored and evidence that could have helped his defence was withheld.
Others who informed in the case to avoid punishment gave false evidence, while the judge and jury deliberated for less than six minutes.
He was hanged on Dec 15, 1882, alongside Pat Joyce and Pat (Pádraig Shéamuis) Casey. The other two men confessed before they were hanged but said Myles Joyce was innocent. Nonetheless, he was hanged.
Myles Joyce’s hanging also went awry, meaning he died slowly by strangulation. On his way to the gallows he is understood to have said: "I will see Jesus Christ in a short while — he too was unjustly hanged … I am going … God help my wife and her five orphans."
Two years later one of the men who had testified against him in court confessed that he had lied.
An inquiry was never held into the case.
Two members of the House of Lords, David Alton and Eric Lubbock, want the conviction declared a miscarriage of justice.
To mark the 130th anniversary of his hanging a Mass will be said in Irish on Dec 15 in Galway Cathedral. Joyce’s body, and those of the other executed men, are buried under what is now the cathedral car park.
Mr Alton, whose mother was a native Irish speaker from the Tuar Mhic Éadaigh Gaeltacht bordering Maamtrasna, will attend as will Johnny Joyce from Dublin, who is a descendant of the murdered Joyce family.