On 6th September 1940, De Valera’s government had Patrick McGrath and Thomas Harte executed in Mountjoy Prison. The other prisoners heard McGrath and Harte being brought from their cells and marched away, then the volley of shots being fired. A commemoration was held inside the prison that morning by the remaining republican prisoners at which the oration was given by George Plunkett, the brother of executed 1916 leader, Joseph Plunkett. McGrath himself was a veteran of the fighting in Dublin in 1916.
At the time of Tom Williams execution in 1942, The Irish Press, Fianna Fáil’s own newsheet, faithfully reported on the run-up to the execution and the reprieve campaigns. In 1940, there was some coverage of the various legal challenges to the execution, but nothing in the couple of days before the execution. The report on the execution itself was terse:
The sentences of death imposed on Patrick McGrath and Thomas Harte for the murder of Det-Off. Hyland on August 16 were carried out yesterday morning at Mountjoy Prison.
The Stephen Hayes confession contains a claim that in the interval between McGrath and Harte’s arrest and their execution, De Valera’s government had threatened to execute McGrath and Harte unless: “(1) The Army in the South would hold no armed parades. (2) That arms in the South be dumped. (3) That no aggressive action be taken against the Free State Military or Police Forces. (4) That no supplies of arms and ammunition be sent to the Units in the Six Counties.” While verification of anything in the Hayes confession is problematic, the alleged go-betweens like Sean Dowling, were criticised in War News at the time. In September 1940, the only IRA volunteers executed since the 1920s had been Peter Barnes and James McCormick, by the British government, in February 1940.
In November 1942, two months after Williams’ execution, another IRA volunteer, Maurice O’Neill, was sentenced to death by De Valera’s government over the death of Detective Officer Mordaunt in Donnycarney that October. In O’Neill’s case, as with Tom Williams, Paddy McGrath and Tom Harte, there was no case made that they had fired the fatal shots. Again, there was little reporting outside of the legal proceedings. The Irish Press report on the execution (carried on the 12th November) was similarly brief:
The sentence of death was carried out yesterday morning on Maurice O’Neill (25), a native of Cahirciveen, Kerry, who was found guilty on November 5, by a Military Court, of having fired at three detective officers at Donnycarney, Dublin, on the night of October 24, with intent to prevent his own arrest and that of another person not in custody.
With no little irony (on 5th November), The Irish Press had reported that O’Neill had been sentenced to death alongside an article on the 1916 memorial which was in the National Museum at the time.