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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

13 February 1820

The death of the Traitor Leonard McNally on this day at 22 Harcourt Street Dublin. McNally was a member the Legal Profession who had defended many of the men tried by the British after the 1798 Rising. As a former member of the United Irishmen he was trusted to the hilt by his political associates.

He was born in Dublin in 1752 and originally went into the grocery Trade, he also spent some time in Bordeaux before returning to Ireland and entering the Law.

His ‘outing’ however occurred only after his death and after he had received a Patriots funeral! His son had then applied to Dublin Castle for the continuation of his generous pension of £300 per annum, a not inconsiderable sum in those days.

Both his political comrades and his opponents were astonished to discover that McNally had been an agent of the Crown for some 25 years prior to his death. Indeed after the Rising was crushed and while taking fees from his clients to defend them from the Crown he had given all the evidence in their defence he had accumulated to those charged with their prosecution.

McNally continued to escape revelation of his ignoble role in the events of those times.While some had their doubts - and one anonymous individual had even sent him a parcel from America in appreciation of his efforts - within which was a snake...

He also dabbled in the profession of Playwright and author where he had some success, being the author of a number of dramas, including the opera of Robin Hood, 1779-96; also of The Claims of Ireland, 1782; Rules of Evidence, 1802; Justice of the Peace for Ireland, 1808; and other works. For two editions of his Justice he received £2,500.

Just how McNally was ‘turned’ is now a mystery, but its possible he cracked under pressure when faced with the reality of Torture at the hands of his interrogators back in 1794 when he was strongly suspected of involvement in the Jackson affair.

While no coward (he had fought in duels) maybe the indignity of being of being the subject of an extreme physical examination proved his undoing. His decision to throw in his lot with his Country’s oppressors was indeed a fateful one, not only for his comrades but also for his own posthumous reputation as one of Ireland’s most infamous sons.