THE Phoenix Park Murders in 1882, one historian said in The Queen v Patrick O’Donnell (TG4 Player, Wednesday/TG4), a feature-length documentary based on Seán Ó Cuirreáin’s book of the same name, century 19 is equivalent to the assassination of John F Kennedy.
The brutal daylight murders of Ireland’s Chief of Staff Lord Frederick Cavendish and his Undersecretary Thomas Burke, who had been stabbed with a surgical knife multiple times and had his throat slashed, quickly traveled the world.
Queen Victoria was deeply moved by the atrocities, Prime Minister William Gladstone as well as the whole of England. Even nationalist leaders who despised Burke condemned the killings. The Irish public, too, has been largely repelled by what happened.
The five perpetrators – Dan Curley, Joe Brady, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey and Tim Kelly – were members of the self-styled Invincibles, a shadowy assassination group formed solely to kill British government figures in Ireland.
That day, there was a sixth Invincibility in the Park: James Carey, a Fenian bricklayer, contractor, and leader. His job was to point out the intended victims as they strolled through the Park.
Tomás Seoighe’s brilliant film focuses on what happens after the bloodthirsty events: a tangled story – revolving around two men, Patrick O’Donnell and James Carey – involving secrets, lies, betrayal, murder on a ship bound by South Africa, political opportunism, courtroom drama and ultimately a gross lapse of justice, the keys remain hidden in the documents. sealed for 100 years.
The man tasked with bringing the Phoenix Park killers to justice is the wily Armagh-born Chief Executive John Mallon, widely regarded as Ireland’s most famous detective and commanding a unit consisting of 13 elite people.
Mallon’s background meant that he was steeped in the nationalist tradition. He knew exactly what kind of man he was looking for and it wasn’t long before he locked six of them in separate cells.
Mallon, a master of manipulation who used trickery and deception to get suspects to confess, played these men against each other. However, the one he actually played as a violinist was Carey, who sang like a canary to dodge the hangman’s noose that would soon wrap around the necks of five of his teammates.
The betrayal deepened for one of the five, Dan Curley. Just two months earlier, he’d been godfather to Carey’s child.
Carey knows the cost of turning an informant. Mallon couldn’t send him to England or America, as he would be recognized and killed (he was known to be a petty thief anyway). Instead, he sent him and his family to South Africa on SS Melrose.
Carey is bound for Natal under a new name: James Power. On the ship, Carey met Patrick O’Donnell, who had briefly returned to his home in Gweedore, Donegal, after many years in America working in various jobs in various parts of the country.
Middle-aged O’Donnell, who was traveling with a 20-year-old woman named Susan Gallagher and shared a cabin with her (it later emerged that he had an ex-wife in Philadelphia), was on his way to Johannesburg to find get a job in diamond mines.
The two became friends. But someone gave O’Donnell an Irish newspaper with sketches by James Carey. O’Donnell immediately recognized the man he knew as James Power and apparently decided to confront him – with a gun.
There are several accounts of what happened during the bar brawl. What is certain is that O’Donnell shot Carey three times and was put on trial for murder in the Old Bailey.
The twists and turns in the courtroom, the ways in which various constituents tried to cast O’Donell as a hero or villain (nationalists fueled the myth that he was elected). go to assassinate Carey, when in fact he doesn’t appear to have ever had any political convictions) and the shudder it sends through the British establishment form from top to bottom leaves the viewer absolutely delighted .
It’s an incredibly polished piece, benefiting from solid performances by Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde as O’Donnell and Stephen Jones as Carey.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/television/tv-reviews/history-rendered-as-an-utterly-thrilling-drama-in-the-queen-v-patrick-odonnell-41455228.html History is recreated as a thrilling drama in The Queen v Patrick O’Donnell