Gender, Ireland, Criminal Justice History, Women Who Kill, Death Penalty, Capital Punishment, Magdalene laundry, prison, punishment
Hannah Flynn was sentenced to death on 27 February 1924. She had been convicted of the murder of Margaret O’Sullivan, her former employer. Hannah worked for Margaret and her husband Daniel as a domestic servant, an arrangement which ended with bad feeling on both sides when Hannah was dismissed. On Easter Sunday, 1 April 1923, while Daniel was at church, Hannah returned to her former place of work, and killed 50-year-old Margaret with a hatchet. At her trial, the jury strongly recommended her to mercy, and sentence of death was subsequently commuted to penal servitude for life. Hannah spent almost two decades in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, from where she was conditionally released on 23 October 1942 to the Good Shepherd Magdalen laundry in Limerick. Although there is no precise date available for Hannah’s eventual release from here, it is known that ‘a considerable time later’, and at a very advanced age, she was released from the laundry to hospital, where she died. The case of Hannah Flynn, and the use of the Good Shepherd laundry, represents an explicitly gendered example of the death penalty regime in Ireland following Independence in 1922, particularly the double-edged sword of mercy as it was experienced by condemned women.