Brady, Joe (c.1857–1883), Fenian and assassin, was born in Dublin, second of twenty sons and five daughters of Thomas Brady, a paviour of forty years standing with Dublin corporation. After serving an apprenticeship with Dublin corporation, Joe was employed by the corporation for fourteen years as a stonecutter and was described as an industrious worker. Unmarried, he lived with his parents at 22 North Anne St. He and his co-accused, Tim Kelly, were members of the choir at the Franciscan church in Church St. A devoted Fenian, he was recruited by Daniel Curley in December 1881 into the Irish National Invincibles, a small secret society committed to political assassination founded by London-based Fenians such as Frank Byrne (qv). Stocky and powerfully built, with a shock of black hair and a good-humoured face, he was known as ‘Bulldog Brady’ and valued for his physical strength and single-mindedness; he was coopted onto the four-man Dublin directory of the Invincibles in March 1882. He and his fellow Invincibles spent the early months of 1882 stalking the chief secretary W. E. Forster (qv), but without success. After Forster's resignation (2 May) they resolved to kill the under-secretary, Thomas Henry Burke (qv). On 6 May 1882 Brady led the seven-man squad that assassinated Burke and the new chief secretary, Lord Frederick Cavendish (qv), as they walked home along Chesterfield Avenue in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Armed with long surgical knives and revolvers concealed in their pockets, they walked towards Burke and Cavendish in three groups – Daniel Curley, Joe Hanlon, and Michael Fagan in front; Brady and Tim Kelly a few steps behind, and Patrick Delaney and Thomas Caffrey at the rear. After their targets had passed, Brady and Kelly wheeled about rapidly and Brady stabbed Burke from behind. Brady was then struck in the face with an umbrella by Cavendish and turned on him, stabbing him several times while Kelly attacked Burke; as Burke lay on the ground, Brady cut his throat before fleeing. He later told a colleague that he did not know the identity of the man who struck him, ‘and only for himself . . . he would not be where he is’ (Report of the trials, 34).
The brutal assassination in broad daylight of two such prominent government officials provoked widespread outrage and a massive police operation. Reports from police informants soon linked Brady with the killings, and after being questioned by police, he was offered a passage to America by a fellow Fenian, but refused. He continued his work with the Invincibles, stalking various targets throughout 1882, and in North Frederick St. on 27 November 1882 he and Kelly attacked Denis Field, a juror who had helped convict a Fenian of murder, stabbing him several times, although Field recovered. This attack led to a special police inquiry (4 December) which caused one of the Invincibles, Robert Farrell, a 24-year-old van driver, to break ranks and start a chain reaction of informing. Brady was arrested on 14 December for questioning but released two days later; he was rearrested (13 January 1883) in Dublin with fifteen other suspects and tried for the murder of Burke (9–13 April 1883). Largely on the evidence of approvers, especially James Carey (qv), Brady was found guilty and sentenced to death. He denied his guilt and blamed paid informers for his fate. A favourite with prison officials for his fortitude and good humour, Brady was given an ivory cross by Lady Lucy Cavendish, the chief secretary's widow. He was hanged 14 May 1883 in Kilmainham jail, Dublin.
Daniel Curley (c.1849–1883) was born in Laurencetown, near Loughrea, Co. Galway, son of a tradesman. He moved to Dublin, living in Gloucester St., and although a carpenter by trade, was employed mainly as a builder. In about 1871 he joined the Fenians and became a ‘centre’. He was one of the four-man directory of the Invincibles established in December 1881 and recruited twenty men from his Fenian circle into the society, which numbered about thirty. He became chairman of the directory (March 1882) and supervised the assassination of Burke and Cavendish. Afterwards he delivered black-bordered cards, reading ‘Executed by order of the Irish Invincibles’, to the newspapers. Arrested on 5 July 1882, he was released on 19 September because of lack of evidence, but was rearrested on 13 January 1883. Tried for murder (16 April), he admitted he was a Fenian, but pleaded not guilty to murder. Handsome and slightly built, with a dark beard and serious manner, he won considerable sympathy for his dignified bearing during the trial. He was nonetheless convicted of Burke's murder and sentenced to death (18 April). Shaking and weeping with emotion, he made a long statement in which he denounced informers and strongly denied his guilt. The authorities also believed that he had helped found an assassination society in Co. Westmeath in March 1882 and had supplied the weapons used in the killing (29 June 1882) of John Henry Blake, agent of the 2nd marquis of Clanricard (qv), near Loughrea. He was hanged on 18 May 1883. He married (c.1876) Jane Hanlon (a cousin of Joe Hanlon); they had three sons and two daughters.
Michael Fagan (1857–83) was born in November 1857, one of eight children (four sons and four daughters) of Michael Fagan, a small farmer, and Mary Anne Fagan (née Walsh) of Kilpatrick, near Collinstown, Co. Westmeath. He worked as a blacksmith near Collinstown and may have joined the IRB there. In June 1880 he moved to Dublin, working for John Fagan, an iron gate manufacturer in Great Brunswick St. Unmarried, he lived with his sister in Buckingham St. He became a Fenian centre in Dublin, and was sworn into the Invincibles in December 1881. After the assassinations of Burke and Cavendish, he continued to take part in Invincible operations during 1882. Arrested 13 January 1883, he was tried for murder (25–7 April), pleaded not guilty, but was sentenced to death. Although his part in the park killings was peripheral, the authorities were anxious to secure his conviction. They believed that he was a gun-runner, had been involved in several attempts on Forster's life, and had also been a founder of the assassination society in Co. Westmeath (March 1882), which resulted in the shooting dead on 2 April 1882 at Barbavilla, Collinstown, Co. Westmeath, of Maria Smythe (sister-in-law of William Barlow Smythe (1809–89), a landlord and magistrate who had been the intended target). Fagan was described in some reports as illiterate and dull, but others noted his ‘honest and straightforward expression of face’ (Freeman's Jn., 28 May 1883). He maintained that he was not guilty of murder and was not an Invincible but that ‘I am a Fenian and will die one’ (Report of the trials, 457). He was hanged on 28 May 1883.
Thomas Caffrey (c.1859–1883) was born in North Clarence St., Dublin, one of at least two sons of Maryanne Caffrey; his father (name unknown), an inmate of a mental asylum, died when Caffrey was five years old. In his youth he worked as a quay porter, joined the British army, and then deserted and spent some time in America. He was a member of a Fenian vigilance committee and involved in gun-running, and was recruited into the Invincibles by James Carey, for whom he worked as a builder's labourer in Dublin. He was arrested 5 July 1882, and released in September because of lack of evidence, but rearrested 27 January 1883. Charged with murder (9 April 1883) he initially pleaded not guilty, but at his trial (2 May 1883) pleaded guilty to the murder of Burke. He claimed that he had no foreknowledge of the plan to assassinate Burke and would have been killed had he disobeyed orders. He was the only conspirator who pleaded guilty who was executed, and was probably denied a reprieve because the authorities believed he had distributed arms used in other killings. Caffrey appeared the most penitent of those convicted: he became noticeably thinner and pallid during his imprisonment and stated that he hoped his fate would prevent others from joining secret societies. A widower, he had a four-year-old child. He was hanged on 2 June 1883.
Tim Kelly (c.1862–1883) lived with his elderly parents at 12 Redmond's Hill, Dublin, and worked as a coachbuilder. A Fenian, he was sworn into the Invincibles in December 1881 and was a close friend of Brady; they stalked Forster together on several occasions during March 1882. Kelly and Brady carried out the actual killings in the Phoenix Park on 6 May 1882, Kelly stabbing Burke several times. Afterwards he continued his activities with the Invincibles, and with Brady on 27 November 1882 stabbed and seriously wounded Denis Field. Arrested on 13 January, he was charged with murder and tried 19–20 April. He pleaded not guilty and had several alibis for 6 May, and the jury failed to reach a verdict. He was tried again (23 April) and, although the jury was sent back five times, two jurors still held out against convicting him. By now the viceroy, Earl Spencer (qv), favoured leniency, but Superintendent John Mallon (qv) of the DMP, convinced that Kelly was a ringleader and a ruthless killer, insisted on another trial. At the third trial (9 May) Kelly was convicted and sentenced to death. The government's persistence in pursuing his conviction, and the portrayal of Kelly by the nationalist press as a sweet-voiced choirboy and the dutiful son of elderly parents, won him great sympathy and many pleas for clemency. Spencer described him as ‘an ardent nationalist, full of patriotic zeal with his mind stored with patriotic poems and songs’, convinced ‘that he had done a brave and proper act in the direct interests of Ireland’ (Cooke, 590). He was hanged on 9 June 1883.
As the initial horror at the killings abated, those convicted were seen by many nationalists as misguided patriots, duped and betrayed by the evil Carey. Crowds gathered outside Kilmainham jail to pray for them prior to their executions, the crowds for Brady and Kelly being the largest. The five executed men were catholics, and attentive to their religious duties, especially Kelly and Brady. All were hanged and buried in Kilmainham jail.
Two of the assassination squad escaped the gallows. Patrick Delaney (c.1852–p.1889), carpenter, was sworn into the Fenians by his brother Dan in Dublin in 1868 or 1869. He was imprisoned for five years in 1870 for stealing a woman's purse and shooting at a policeman who pursued him. He rejoined the Fenians on his release. Sworn into the Invincibles in about December 1881, he appears to have been a rather nervous and shifty character. After the killings of Cavendish and Burke he was involved in the attempted assassination (11 November 1882) of Mr Justice James Lawson (qv). Delaney blundered into a member of Lawson's armed escort and was immediately overpowered and arrested (he later claimed that he deliberately botched the operation to save Lawson's life). On 3 January 1883 he was found guilty of conspiracy to murder Lawson and sentenced to ten years penal servitude. Implicated in the Phoenix Park killings by an informer, he was tried for murder (2 May). He pleaded guilty, but insisted that he had been duped into joining the Invincibles by Carey, that he had taken no part in the actual killings, and that he would have been killed himself if he had tried to prevent them. Described as dowdy and unprepossessing in appearance, he looked dejected and ill at ease throughout the trials. Found guilty, he was sentenced to be hanged on 2 June 1883 but this was later commuted to penal servitude for life for giving information to the authorities. After his appearance at the special commission in January 1889 as a witness for The Times against Charles Stewart Parnell (qv) his sentence was reduced to ten years. He was released from Maryborough prison soon afterwards and then disappeared from the historical record. Married with four children, he lived at 131 Cork St., Dublin.
Joe Hanlon (c.1861–p. 1883), carpenter, was born in Peter St., Dublin, and lived at 29 Lower Camden St. A Fenian, he claimed that on joining the Invincibles in late March 1882 he was told that it was an IRB vigilance society, and nothing was said of assassination. After the killings in the park, he was on the fringes of the attempts on the lives of Field and Lawson. He was arrested on 14 December for questioning but released two days later; he was rearrested and charged with murder in January 1883. At Tim Kelly's third trial he turned approver and his evidence finally helped secure Kelly's conviction. Hanlon insisted that he was not an informer and had told the authorities nothing they had not known previously. Claiming that he had been left with no other choice but to save his own life, he remarked to Kelly in court ‘You have been well sold before I said anything against you, and I have been beastly sold myself’ (Report of the trials, 650). He was discharged from prison on 6 June 1883. The authorities agreed to resettle him and he sailed from Plymouth to Australia on the Pathan with Michael Kavanagh (c.1859–1886?), a carman who had driven some of the assassins to the Phoenix Park on 6 May and had turned approver. Soon after arriving in Melbourne on 30 July 1883, their presence was announced by local detectives, and they were taken back to Britain by warship. It seems that Kavanagh died from excessive drinking within three years, but Hanlon was successfully resettled in an unknown location. His elder brother Laurence Hanlon (b. c.1859), a carpenter, was sentenced to penal servitude for life for the attempted murder of Denis Field; he was released in 1899.