The last man to be publicly hanged in the U.K., Irishman Michael Barrett was executed for his part in the 1867 bombing of Clerkenwell Prison, an attack carried out by Irish Nationalists the Fenians as they tried to help a prisoner escape. The bombing which killed 12 bystanders, seriously injured dozens more and destroyed a row of tenement buildings opposite the jail sparked British hostility against the Irish community.
Barrett was executed outside Newgate Prison on May 26, 1868, in front of a crowd of thousands. Three days later, public executions were outlawed in Britain. But Barrett's performance while on trial was regarded as highly impressive. Speaking from the dock before his sentence was passed, he was said to have eloquently questioned the discrepancies of the case and concluded with a stirring speech: "If it is murderous to love Ireland dearer than I love my life, then it is true, I am a murderer ... If I could, by any means, redress the wrongs of that persecuted land by the sacrifice of my life, I would willingly and gladly do so."
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