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'Land War' pictures on show at museum

It was a famous case involving a Donegal priest, Unionist leader Edward Carson and the murder of a policeman outside a church. Now photographs from the 'Land War' trialof 1889 are being seen for the first time, reports Suzanne McGonagle

THE first photographs ever used as evidence in an Irish court have been put on display for the first time.

The pictures relate to the famous 'Land War' trial of a Done-gal priest and his parishioners in 1889.

James Glass was commissioned to provide court photographs in the case against 36 men and women charged with the murder of a policeman.

The 'Glass Album' collection is owned by Buncrana solicitor Ciaran McLaughlin and has just been unveiled at Donegal County Museum in Letterkenny.

It tells the story of Detective Inspector William Martin, who was beaten to death when he turned up at a church in Gweedore to arrest Fr James McFadden.

The priest had been an out-spoken supporter of the 'Plan of Campaign', co-ordinated by Irish politicians to help tenant farmers against mainly absentee and rack-rent landlords.

He encouraged his parishioners not to pay the outrageous rack-rents and when he failed to appear in court following a summons, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

When the priest came out of Mass in Gweedore, Detective In

spector Martin and around 40 RIC men were waiting to arrest him.

The policeman grabbed Fr Mc-Fadden by the coat, angering bystanders, and violence broke out.

He was beaten to death and a total of 36 people were subsequently charged with his murder.

"The case that followed was a fascinating one," Ciaran McLaughlin said.

"Thirty-four of the men and women were represented by a Buncrana solicitor called James E O'Doherty and he commissioned

Derry photographer James Glass to take a series of photographs to be used in the trial."

The preliminary hearings were held in Derry and Donegal but the trial itself was transferred to Portlaoise.

"They thought there would be a less sympathetic jury there," Mr McLaughlin said.

"But the jury couldn't agree on murder and it was only after the third trial that they came up with a plea bargain - that four of the men should plead to manslaughter.

"So four of the men ended up with 10 years' hard labour each at Mountjoy jail and we have pictures of the men before they went off to serve their sentence.

"The rest of the accused all served less than 10 years each - the only person who walked away free was Fr McFadden, which did not go down well considering the circumstances.

"Even the legal team involved some historically significant characters including Unionist leader Edward Carson and Tim Healy, who went on to become the first governor general of the Free State."

This is the first chance for the public see the collection of photographs.

There are also some poignant images of the harshness of rural life in Donegal and the heritage it shares with Derry.

The exhibition, which is part of the Derry-Londonderry City of Culture celebrations, runs until August 31 at the Donegal County Museum. n For further information see www.cityofculture2013.com.

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