From the Archive

Brendan Behan’s sentencing for attempted murder of gardaí

Brendan Behan in 1955, 13 years after his conviction for attempting to murder two detective gardaí. Photograph: Hulton Getty

Brendan Behan in 1955, 13 years after his conviction for attempting to murder two detective gardaí. Photograph: Hulton Getty

Wed, Dec 11, 2013, 14:01

From The Irish Times on Saturday, April 25th, 1942: How we reported the conviction for attempted murder of Brendan Behan, who would go on to write such celebrated works as The Quare Fella, Borstal Boy and Confessions of an Irish Rebel.

FOURTEEN YEARS’ IMPRISONMENT

EASTER MONDAY SCENE

A SENTENCE of fourteen years’ imprisonment was imposed on a youth named Brendan Behan, 70 Kildare road, Crumlin, Dublin , by the Special Criminal Court, sitting in Collins Barracks, Dublin, yesterday, for his part in a shooting affray on the Finglas road last Easter Monday. Three other men who were charged with being involved in the same incident were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. The accused men were Behan, who was charged with the attempted murder of Detective Guards Martin Hanrahan and Patrick Kirwan; Andrew Nathan, 16 St. Jarlath’s road. Cabra; Lasarian Mangan , 61 Blackhorse lane, and Joseph Buckley, 39 Upper Dorset street, who were each charged with possession of firearms or ammunition, membership of an unlawful organisation and possession of incriminating documents.

STATE’S CASE

Mr. G. D. Murnaghan (instructed by the Chief State Solicitor), who prosecuted, said that the accused men took part in a parade to Glasnevin Cemetery, and were observed to pass what appeared to be revolvers from one to the other at the graveyard. On their way down Finglas road towards the city they were followed by Detective Guards, who arrested Nathan at the corner of De Courcey square. Mangan ran out on to the road and produced a revolver, which he pointed at the Guards. Behan, coming up behind, shouted to him: “ Use it , use it!” When this had no effect he shouted: “Give it to me and 1 will shoot the bastards.” Mangan then threw the gun to Behan, who ran down de Courcy square, firing two shots at Guard Hanrahan. The Guards fired some shots towards Behan, who made his escape firing another shot before he did so. Nathan had a revolver when searched, and Buckley, who was arrested with him, had six rounds of ammunition. Behan was seen on the night of April 9 by Guards in Parnell square, and drew a revolver as they approached him. He got away, as the Guards could not use their guns owing to a number of children on the roadway. He was caught, unarmed , the following night in Blessington street and arrested. Evidence was given by the various Detective Guards to confirm the case for the prosecution and to prove that incriminating documents were found in the possesion of three of the men.

OTHER SENTENCES

The President asked Buckley’s mother, who was present in Court, if she had any influence over her son, aged 17, or did she want to see him go to prison. She replied: “I’ll let him speak for himself.” Behan was found guilty of the charges preferred against him and sentenced as already stated. Mangan was found guilty of possession of a loaded revolver with intent to enable another person to endanger life, membership of an unlawful organisation, and possession of ammunition, and sentenced to three years’ penal servitude; Nathan was found guilty of possession of firearms with intent to endanger life, membership of an unlawful organisation and possession of incriminating documents, and sentenced to seven years’ penal servitude. A sentence of eighteen months’ imprisonment, not to be enforced if he entered into recognisances of £90 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for two years, was imposed on Buckley on the proved charges of possession of ammunition, membership of an unlawful organisation, and possession of incriminating documents.