The Queen v Patrick O’Donnell

The Queen v Patrick O’Donnell tells the fascinating story of how Patrick O’Donnell, an illiterate labourer from the Donegal Gaeltacht, became a national hero when he killed James Carey, the leader of The Invincibles, a Fenian assassination squad, on board a ship off the coast of South Africa in 1883.

Carey was being secretly smuggled into hiding by the British authorities having turned informer against his former colleagues who had killed two leading figures of the British establishment in Ireland the previous year in what became known as the Phoenix Park murders. His evidence saw five of his comrades hanged and others imprisoned.

What began as a political assassination plot rocked the bastions of the British Empire from the Queen’s residence at Windsor Castle to Westminster Parliament and left death and destruction in its wake.  

How did Patrick O’Donnell, a quiet-spoken Donegal man known locally in his native Gaoth Dobhair as Padaí Mhicheáil Airt become a reluctant hero of nationalist Ireland and play a central role in the aftermath of one of the most compelling murder plots in Irish history. What fate cast him to become a central figure in this thrilling tale of violence, courtroom drama, romance and political intrigue? Who was the mystery woman travelling with O’Donnell and posing as his wife? And why did both the US President and the French luminary Victor Hugo plead that Patrick O’Donnell not be hanged for his crime?

The Queen v Patrick O’Donnell reveals on screen for the first time the true story of the Donegal man’s life and raises serious questions about his conviction for a murderer following newly discovered evidence from British Home Office files kept secret for 100 years. It also considers attitudes to the role of the informer in Irish history and the national consciousness of betrayal and revenge.

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