Capital punishment is one of the lines dividing countries in today’s world. Countries that execute citizens after convicting them of something or other fall into one category. The countries that no longer assume the right to punish a citizen by taking their life fall into another. We are, thankfully, in the latter, as are all EU states. It is impossible for any country that permits capital punishment to join the EU.
It is 65 years since Ireland last executed someone, a man convicted of rape and murder. It is unimaginable, despite understandable, if ill-conceived knee-jerk reactions after a litany of murders during the North’s Troubles, that this State will allow capital punishment again.
Yet America’s government, one that imagines itself a light unto the world, is set to carry out the death penalty for the first time in 16 years. William Barr, the attorney general, made an announcement on Thursday and the justice department has scheduled the execution of five federal inmates. Thirty US states allow capital punishment but, in four, governors have issued moratoriums on the death penalty. Twenty states have abolished or overturned it while Hampshire became the latest US state to abolish it in May.
Today’s America seems an increasingly unnerving and dark presence in our world and this decision strengthens that impression. What a terrible pity, what a loss to the community of civilised, humane nations.