Following the Norman conquest of Ireland, English law mandated a death sentence for even the most minor felony. Reforms passed from 1827 allowed judges to sentence to transportation, and later penal servitude, for many crimes. From 1861, capital punishment was applied only for murder, treason and piracy with violence. The last public hanging in Ireland was in 1868. The humane "Standard Drop" method of hanging that came into use in 1866.
Politically motivated crimes always evoked a degree of sympathy in Ireland. Execution of Irish republicans created political martyrs, such as the "Manchester Martyrs" of 1867. In 1916, the execution of the Easter Rising leaders turned public sympathy in favour of the rebels. Kevin Barry was the first of 24 rebels to be executed during the 1919–21 War of Independence. Since 1923, there were a total of 35 executions in Ireland. Michael Manning was last to be executed in 1954 for the rape and murder of Catherine Cooper. Capitol punishment was abolished in 1990.