TV drama suggests Easter Rising leader Pádraig Pearse was in love with Eoin MacNeill
A NEW television drama has made the controversial suggestion that Easter Rising leader Pádraig Pearse was in love with Eoin MacNeill, commander of the Irish Volunteers.
The claim is made in the TV3 series 'Trial of the Century', starring Love/ Hate actor Tom Vaughan Lawlor, which imagines what would have happened if Pearse had stood trial for treason.
During the drama, it is suggested Pearse had amorous feelings towards MacNeill.
The three part series is part of TV3's efforts to commemorate the 1916 Rising.
It puts real-life characters, such as Lady Gregory and James Connolly, in the witness box and demands they give evidence.
The verdict is decided by 12 "jurors" including broadcaster Pat Kenny, former Armagh GAA player Oisín McConville and musician Damien Dempsey.
During the first episode, which airs on Saturday, MacNeill is questioned by the prosecution and there is a suggestion that Pearse had feelings for MacNeill.
MacNeill, played by actor Anthony Brophy, is questioned in the witness box about the way Pearse looks up to him, but he refuses to answer.
However, he is pushed to tell the court that he had been informed Pearse "almost wept" when he heard MacNeill was to marry.
Scriptwriter Hugh Travers said while Pearse's admiration for MacNeill was purely professional, he believed it was "plausible" the Easter Rising leader's sexuality could have been used against him by a prosecuting lawyer in court.
"I was trying to find a dramatically compelling way to explore the conversation around Pearse's sexuality," he told The Sunday Times.
"Historically, it's clear there was no romantic relationship between Pearse and MacNeill and we're not necessarily suggesting Pearse was in love with him but it's plausible a prosecution would have thrown any sort of accusation at him to try and blacken his name."
Historian Ruth Dudley Edwards, who wrote a biography on Pearse, has dismissed the account as "bonkers".
"He was furious that MacNeill would have less time to push the Irish language. He wouldn't be focussed," she said.
"Pearse didn't fall in love with anyone over 17, and MacNeill was about 13 years older than him."