Sean Heuston – Aftermath and Legacy

Sean Heuston was tried by court-martial and sentenced to death by Field General Courts Martial on Thursday, May 4th 1916. Between 3.45 and 4.05am on the 8th of May 1916, Sean Heuston was shot in the former stone-breakers yard at Kilmainham Prison.

On the day before his execution a friend asked him if he had heard the result of his court-martial, and he replied quite calmly that he had not, adding: “there is no hope for me. I expect to be shot.” As soon as he heard the sentence, he wrote from his prison cell: “Whatever I have done, I have done as a soldier of Ireland, and I have no vain regrets.” When Sean Heuston fell to the last volley in Kilmainham, the Franciscan, Father Albert, who attended him, looked down on the dead man’s face, and found it “transformed, and lit with a grandeur and brightness I had never before noticed.”

His remains were later buried in Arbour Lane Cemetery. He was unmarried and survived by his mother, his father, his two sisters and his brother Michael, then a student for the priesthood at the Dominican Priory, Tallaght. He was 25 years old and the youngest of those executed after the Easter Rising. His legacy is clearly evident today with Heuston Bridge and the national train station Heuston Station named after him both within close proximity of the Mendicity Institute.

In summary, Sean Heuston’s life was dedicated to the achievement of freedom for Ireland. He played a pivotal role in the movement toward achieving Independence and his role in the Rising was of great valour and great bravery vindicated above all by the words of his fellow comrade Paddy Joe Stephenson who was later quoted…

“We tried to find consolation as we thought of how long Heuston had held out against such superior numbers and that it was ridiculous to think that he could have beaten off such forces. There was nothing to be ashamed of in losing a scrap, particularly under such adverse conditions. Anyway, Heuston, by holding on so long to his position, had prevented the British developing any attack against Daly in the Four Courts for at least three days, if not longer. After their experience at the Mendicity the British would now have a healthy respect for the Irish Republican Army. It was no longer playing at soldiers. Small and all as it was it was going to take more than a few peelers with batons in their hands to wipe it out.”  (Paddy Joe Stephenson – “Heuston’s Fort”)