Journal of Irish Studies: The war against the R.I.C., 1919-21

The war against the R.I.C., 1919-21 – Royal Irish Constabulary

W.J. Lowe


THE period from Easter Week in 1916 through the end of the Irish Civil War in 1923 continues to attract intense popular and scholarly interest, as reflected in a growing literature of historical treatments, local studies, and personal memoirs. The armed campaign that resulted in the eclipse of British administration in twenty-six of Ireland’s thirty-two counties occurred over thirty months during 1919-21, and in this conflict the Royal Irish Constabulary (R.I.C.) was a principal target of the republican movement. The Irish war for independence, at the very least, was a struggle to remove any meaningful British presence from the daily lives of Irish citizens. The R.I.C. was the manifestation of British authority that Irish people encountered most regularly. (1) By 1919 the R.I.C. represented a century-old police tradition (2) that had recruited generations of young Irishmen to its ranks and had achieved substantial acceptance in Irish communities. (3) The local R.I.C. presence, usually in station parties of four or five men, enabled constables to develop an unrivalled local knowledge that became a direct threat to local Sinn Fein clubs and Volunteer bodies. (4) The independence movement challenged the R.I.C. by force and through an elaborate campaign to isolate policemen from the communities of which they had become part. Between March 1920 and December 1921 a separate category of R.I.C. statistics documented the determined republican campaign against the police. (5) This previously unanalyzed source adds depth to our understanding of how Irish nationalists accomplished the neutralization of the R.I.C., and it provides multiple insights into the day-to-day experiences of policemen during the low-intensity struggle that ended in the exhausted stalemate of July 1921.


Paramilitary organizing had been raising tensions in Ireland ever since the Ulster unionist movement of 1912, and by 1914 volunteers of all stripes were drilling with weapons. World War I and attendant emergency restrictions such as the Defence of the Realm Act (D.O.R.A.) further militarized the atmosphere. The 1916 Rising brought armed conflict between Irish nationalists and the R.I.C. for the first time in a half-century and helped to prepare Irish opinion for an armed campaign for independence. (6) Before the spring of 1916 members of the R.I.C. rarely faced armed resistance of any sort (7) and usually found it a practical inconvenience and a hindrance to good community relations to carry their carbines while on duty. But attacks on the police became more common during the years 1916-18. (8)

The pattern of police responses to the nationalist challenge was established in the wake of the Easter Rising. Aggressive actions against nationalist political activity by armed members of the R.I.C. contributed to a more violent environment. D.O.R.A. empowered the police to search for arms, arrest suspects, break up local meetings, and pull down nationalist flags and posters. These were striking departures from accustomed relations with communities that were increasingly nationalist and opposed to British war demands, especially conscription. (9) An R.I.C. officer, John Regan, who was posted to Bantry in 1919, found himself immediately “pressed to engage in searches, etc. I resented it, as there had been no activity of that kind prior to my arrival…. I thought then, and I think so still, that it was much easier to get information if neither side appeared to be particularly active….” (10) The police also relied increasingly on military assistance to suppress political activity. (11) The R.I.C. had been founded and organized as a rural police force to control agrarian crime, but the transition to confronting political organizations such as Sinn Fein and the Volunteers was pursued through emergency regulations and military-style tactics. The police were becoming alienated from their communities, even before violence accelerated in 1919. (12) John Regan aptly characterized the position in which the police found themselves: “The military always arranged for the police to do the actual searching of houses…. The result of this was that any complaints fell on police and not on the military …; the result was that police were regarded as active oppressors and received all the vituperation.” (13) Thus the police, who only a few years before could see themselves serving a Home Rule Ireland, suffered a self-inflicted community-relations wound by too close an association with the military. (14)

Perhaps the notorious killing of two R.I.C. constables at Soloheadbeg, Co. Tipperary, in January 1919 best demonstrates the changed relationship of the police with nationalist Ireland. Constables O’Connell and McDonnell were shot because they went for their weapons rather than surrender. The son of an R.I.C. head constable commented decades later on the significance of Soloheadbeg: “Time and again, the R.I.C. proved that they would not be intimidated by [a] show of arms, and the action of the two policemen in grabbing at their carbines was typical of the courage of the force. They gave the I.R.A. no alternative but that of shooting….” (15) Reports indicated a steadily increasing incidence of nonagrarian offenses during the first year of the war of independence (roughly January 1919–March 1920). (16) But as early as July 1914 instructions were issued about how to defend R.I.C. stations against attack by either the Germans or, after 1916, the Volunteers. (17) In January 1918 there was an unsuccessful attempt to raid a police hut in Clare for weapons by falsely reporting a fire, and stations were warned to be wary of other ruses. (18) It was well known that R.I.C. regulations required Sunday church attendance, a weekly opportunity that resulted, for example, in the capture of R.I.C. weapons, ammunition, and station records at Araglen (near Fermoy), Co. Cork, from a lone barrack orderly (the policeman assigned to staff the station while his comrades patrolled or slept) in April 1919. (19) Attacks on police stations became steadily more common in the second half of 1919, and though not many were successful, station parties were sometimes overwhelmed and disarmed. (20)

By November 1919 it was clear that no barrack could “be considered immune from attack,” and station parties were expected to be prepared for trouble. (21) County inspectors were directed to begin planning for closing stations and consolidating small parties into larger units. (22) The idea of concentrating constabulary strength by temporarily vacating some stations had been part of contingency planning since 1917. (23) The closing of some stations began late in the summer of 1919 in Clare, Galway, and Limerick. (24) On 7 November 1919 barrack orderlies were instructed to carry revolvers. The order to close small, vulnerable stations “at once” came on 8 November. (25) The inspector-general reported in December 1919 that

many of the more isolated police barracks have had to be closed in order to

augment the force in the remainder for defensive purposes and to enable

patrols to be strengthened…. It has caused apprehension among law-abiding

citizens in the localities affected, who feel they are left without

adequate protection.

The inspector-general explained that Munster was particularly afflicted with a “spirit of lawlessness.” In a revealing admission about the role and capabilities of the R.I.C., he acknowledged that policemen were “not strong enough to cope with it but for the assistance afforded by the military.” (26) Reliance on military protection and the evacuation of hundreds of stations added physical isolation to the growing estrangement of the police from their communities.

The war against the R.I.C. intensified as the year 1920 opened. During January ten stations were attacked in seven different counties, and there were three R.I.C. casualties in seven other attacks. The thirteen attempts to intimidate policemen indicate the expanding range of pressures on the force. (27) The attacks followed what would become a familiar pattern. They “were carried out at night by large bodies of men who used rifles and guns, and in most cases bombs, and were provided with petrol to set fire to the buildings…. The roads in the locality were blocked, and the telegraph and telephone lines were cut.” (28) The constabulary report for February 1920 detailed eleven attacks on police and soldiers. (29) One incident at the end of 1919 foreshadowed what was to become another distinctive feature of the coming months. It was at first thought safe to allow police families to occupy vacated stations, (30) but in December 1919 a sergeant’s family was turned out of a vacated hut at Liscasey, Co. Clare. The hut was burned and the family was refused shelter in any of the neighboring households. (31)

The traditions of boycotting and general ostracism were resurrected as weapons against the police. They had been used against the R.I.C. during the Land War, and there is evidence that the constabulary was subjected to local boycotting in several counties perhaps as early as 1917. (32) Police actions provoked such popular reprisals. The militarization of the police role continued to fray the links between the R.I.C. and local communities. In December 1919, for example, the inspector-general reported that the police were pulling down nationalist notices and were active in prosecutions involving the Republican Loan. (33) The arrest of a man collecting donations for Sinn Fein in Newtownbarry, Co. Wexford, in August 1919 drew an angry crowd and a brass band to the police station. The crowd was dispersed by a baton charge when the station was stoned. (34) The more aggressive behavior of the R.I.C. in the conduct of searches for arms and suspects, with military assistance, was also characterized as a provocation in the provincial press: “Police are turned over to military work, their duty as policemen being largely changed, and the military, in full war equipment, are used to protect and assist the police in depriving the people of their constitutional rights.” (35)

The Volunteers called for a boycott in February 1919 because, as one hostile observer remarked, “The police are regarded by the extremists as the great obstacle to the realization of their political aims.” (36) In calling on the Dail to approve a police boycott in April, Eamon de Valera denounced the R.I.C. as “spies in our midst…. They are the eyes and ears of the enemy.” The Dail resolution outlined the staple reasons for boycotting the constabulary. As traitors, the police were “unworthy to enjoy any of the privileges or comforts which arise from cordial relations with the public.” Cumann na mBan members were told: “Avoid all social intercourse. No salutations. No social contact. If they attend, you leave. Avoid places where police are known to visit, particularly public houses which they frequent.” (37)

The boycott quickly became a common form of local antipolice pressure during 1919. Boycotting was often aimed at civilian members of the community who appeared to be too friendly with the police or continued to have business dealings with them, including the letting of garden plots and turf-cutting rights. (38) A local boycott was usually announced by posting a notice. (39) Boycotts forbade members of the community “even to sit in the same pew in church” with a policeman, (40) a prohibition that resulted in threats to those who allowed R.I.C. men to sit anywhere near them. (41) The vicinities of Catholic chapels were popular places to post boycotting notices. (42) Public notices also warned against the letting of gardens or turbary to the police. (43) The inspector-general acknowledged in May 1919 that “the organised hostility to the constabulary, besides endangering their lives, renders the ordinary duty of criminal investigation increasingly difficult, and is part of the scheme for `making British government in Ireland impossible.'” (44) By the summer of 1919 military assistance was necessary “in nearly every case where duty of a political nature had to be performed.” Evidence for prosecutions was traditionally difficult to obtain in Ireland, but police information was “now reduced to what they can observe.” (45)

Even though the police were subjected to increasing pressure and had effectively abandoned large tracts of the countryside to the Volunteers, the British government persistently sought to undercut Irish nationalist claims to belligerent status. It made a difference that the insurgency should be described as a rebellion, not a war. As Lloyd George remarked, one does not declare war on rebels, so the counterinsurgency task in Ireland was “a policeman’s job supported by the military and not vice versa.” (46) A constabulary recruit later observed that the government insisted on “treating this armed and widespread rebellion as though it were an exceptional crime wave.” (47) The government’s determination to prevent international recognition of the Irish independence movement inevitably introduced ambiguities into its policy. (48) The R.I.C. was not adequately trained or armed, or even up to sufficient strength, to confront the Volunteers without heavy reliance on military support, (49) particularly when the violence intensified in 1920. But the police maintained organizational independence, even after the attempt to coordinate military and police activities more closely in 1920 through the appointment of military officers as temporary R.I.C. inspectors-general and divisional commissioners. (50) The paramilitary capacity of the R.I.C. was strengthened (51) in a further confirmation that the R.I.C. was not equal to the “policeman’s job.” Lloyd George’s insistence on the primary role of the police was unavoidable in political terms, but as one expert has noted, the “persistent failure to define objectives, powers, and roles” contributed to the ultimate failure of the policy and a growing distance between the R.I.C. and nationalist Ireland. (52)

British counterinsurgency policy placed the R.I.C. on the front line. By late 1919, R.I.C. intelligence had detected that the nationalist movement appeared to be passing “into the hands of the extreme section, the Irish Volunteers, who … may now be regarded as an oath-bound society scarcely distinguishable from the Irish Republican Brotherhood…. They hope to make government impossible by murdering the police with a view to terrorising the force and smashing its discipline.” (53) The police were now facing the Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.), and their experience would reflect the vulnerabilities exposed by a more determined and violent foe. (54) John Regan described the readiness of the officers who led the R.I.C. for guerrilla warfare: “Excellent police officers, as many were, they were only suited from a gendarmarie point of view to deal with a few armed moonlighters. Dealing with formed bodies of I.R.A. was completely out of the class of most of them.” (55) The consolidation of police stations was substantially complete by early 1920 and facilitated the I.R.A.’s ability to operate against the police and civilians. (56) Local I.R.A. units were cleared to initiate attacks on the police by the republican leadership in January 1920, and the inspector-general lamented that “if country districts could be constantly traversed at night by strong patrols, bodies of the `Irish Republican Army’ … might be detected and dealt with, but with their limited numbers, the police cannot attempt this; they can do little more than protect their barracks….” (57) By February 1920 the campaign of intimidation and boycotting had created “such a state of terror that injured persons are not only afraid to give any information but in many cases even fear to seek compensation.” (58) In March constabulary headquarters began keeping a weekly record of offenses committed against the police. In one of the early reports Inspector-General Sir Thomas J. Smith commented on the implications for police effectiveness, morale, and recruitment: “It will be seen that police have been murdered, fired at, threatened. Candidates for the force have been shot and wounded, their houses have been fired into, unlawful oaths have been administered, and intimidation is rife.” (59)


The special reports compiled by the R.I.C. between March 1920 and December 1921 include weekly statistics of incidents of violence and intimidation directed against the police. (60) By mid-April the recording of incidents had settled into a systematic weekly routine. The data found in the reports reveal the sophistication of the comprehensive campaign to drive the R.I.C. out of the Irish countryside and to separate policemen from their nationalist neighbors. The government response (increasing militarization of the police role) helped to advance the republican program by raising the overall level of violence and discrediting what remained of the R.I.C.’s public image as acceptable civil police. National statistics summarized the number of incidents aimed at the police, the total number of incidents attributed to “Sinn Fein,” and agrarian offenses, as well as provided various breakdowns of anti-R.I.C, actions. (61) The figures also include separate listings of attacks on police stations and of vacated stations that were damaged or destroyed. These summary statistics do not include the dates, locations, or other specific details of offenses against the R.I.C. But accompanying the weekly reports are precis of individual incidents in the statistical summaries that do offer details such as dates, locations, the names of those involved, and brief accounts of what happened. As violence increased during the spring and summer of 1921, the report writers largely discontinued providing separate details of less serious incidents. Altogether, the statistical summaries identify 2,690 offenses against the R.I.C., but there are short reports for only 1,942 incidents. The precis have been converted into a new database that produces a much more detailed picture of the nationalist response to the government’s more muscular police role and of what happened to the R.I.C in its final months. (62)

Major categories of offenses, except the destruction of abandoned stations, can be traced in both the weekly statistics and the new database. The burning of unoccupied R.I.C. stations was a very common activity in 1920. Between 16 March and 11 April of that year, as many as 219 empty stations were destroyed, (63) and a total of 709 were burned by the end of December. Only 27 vacated stations were destroyed in 1921 because there simply were not any more empty stations to burn. About half the police stations in Ireland had been vacated and destroyed by August 1920. The destruction of abandoned station buildings largely precluded the redeployment of the R.I.C. from larger, fortified stations and left a police absence in many places, except when they passed through in motorized patrols. (64) The end of a permanent R.I.C. presence made the appearance of republican police and courts possible. But even in the places where larger police parties were maintained, the stations took on an embattled appearance, and increasingly policemen were well armed and seen only when on patrol. (65)

Combined with the local detail found in the R.I.C. monthly narrative reports, the database developed from the precis yields a vivid picture of the daily experience of Irish policemen during the war of independence, particularly in the most active counties. The cumulative effect of the campaign against the R.I.C. was a tense, violent environment in which policemen had well-founded fears for their own safety and that of their families and friends. In the spring of 1920 the R.I.C. numbered around ten thousand men. From the beginning of 1919 to the time of the truce in July 1921, the police sustained more than one thousand casualties, constituting two-thirds of all those suffered by the crown forces and including 370 dead. It was rarely possible for Irish policemen or their families to feel remote from violence during the war of independence.

The summary statistics enable us to chart the intensity of the campaign against the R.I.C., but the database developed from the precis yields a greater depth of information. There is, for example, no single, unambiguous category for attacks on policemen in the summaries, and boycotts are not mentioned at all. Overall, the R.I.C. kept special statistics on 15,251 incidents attributed generically to “Sinn Fein.” (66) Of those offenses, 2,690 (almost 18 percent) were directed against the police. In the eight months of 1920 for which the series was maintained, there were 5,376 incidents, 1,547 of which (29 percent) were committed against the R.I.C. If the destruction of 709 vacated police stations is added, the total number of offenses against the R.I.C. in 1920 becomes 2,256. In 1921 nearly 9,900 incidents were recorded. Even though the first seven months of 1921 was a very violent time, the total number of offenses against the R.I.C. was 1,143 (excluding some two dozen station burnings), more than one thousand fewer than in 1920. Accounting for this apparent discrepancy was a decline in reports of offenses against civilians associated with the police–incidents that by 1921 were either under-reported by victims or attracting less interest at Dublin Castle. But the smaller number of reports in 1921 conceals the higher levels of danger for the R.I.C. There was a sustained level of violent incidents (including a high, close-range, wounded-to-killed ratio of 1.8:1), (67) and ostracism of the R.I.C. throughout the period significantly widened the distance between police and people.

“Sinn Fein” incidents increased in number throughout the spring and summer of 1920. By July and August more than zoo incidents were being reported each week, and the total exceeded 350 in mid-September. (68) Things were quieter during the winter months, which coincided with redoubled efforts by the reinforced R.I.C., (69) but the turmoil increased in 1921 until more than five hundred incidents were reported weekly in June and July, immediately prior to the truce. Incidents of violence and intimidation against the R.I.C. followed a pattern similar to that of the overall level of nationalist activity. Exclusive of the burning of vacated police stations, attacks and other less overtly violent incidents against the R.I.C. increased throughout the spring of 1920 and reached their highest point for the entire war of independence (78 incidents reported in a single week) at the end of July. The high-pressure coordination of attacks and assorted types of intimidation against members of the R.I.C. was not sustained beyond the summer of 1920, which coincided with a more aggressive police posture against I.R.A. units and suspected local supporters. (70) Incidents against the R.I.C. did not increase as steeply as the overall level of insurgent activity in 1921, but the pressure rose steadily during the spring and early summer, and the incidents were more likely to be violent attacks.

The summary statistics are a sensitive indicator of the weekly fluctuations in the numbers of incidents. The precis database is here compiled on a monthly basis and permits greater depth of analysis. Because precis do not exist for each of the incidents counted in the weekly summary statistics, the resulting database is not complete. (71) It appears that threats and intimidation were less likely to receive a detailed record. The weekly summaries record 611 instances of intimidation, for example, whereas only 489 are found in the precis. Still, the value of the information is confirmed by the fact that the trends in serious offenses against the R.I.C. are the same for both series of data. The numbers of attacks in the two series are very close (900 and 898), and the number of R.I.C. dead (355) is identical. (72)

The numbers of policemen killed and wounded each week do not track closely with the overall levels of activity. On a couple of occasions in late 1920 and early 1921 the number of policemen killed spiked much higher than the general level of violence, owing to attacks in which there were unusually heavy police casualties, such as the ambushes at Kilmichael, Co. Cork, in November 1920 or at Drumkeen (near Newpallas), Co. Limerick, in February 1921. (73) The number of policemen wounded is consistent with the incidence of attacks and ambushes.

The precis data also make it possible to map the distribution of incidents. Levels of resistance to the R.I.C. varied widely, but it is significant that there were both incidents and police casualties in every county. Activity against the R.I.C. was highly concentrated and sustained in eleven counties: Clare, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Longford, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, and Tipperary. Two-thirds of all incidents against the R.I.C. and about three-quarters of the police casualties (71 percent of the wounded and 79 percent of those killed) occurred in these counties, which contained only somewhat more than one-third of the Irish population and some of the most sparsely inhabited parts of the country. (74) The West was indeed awake and the Representative Body of the R.I.C. recommended replacing the police with military forces in the most active counties. (75) Cork, Kerry, Limerick, and Tipperary were placed under martial law on 12 December 1920, and Clare was added later that month, along with the moderately disturbed counties of Kilkenny, Waterford, and Wexford, all of which confirmed Munster as the most seriously affected province. (76) Cork was the most violent county overall and the most aggressive against the police, with 276 incidents (14 percent of the total), in which 119 policemen were wounded and 90 killed. (77) Other dangerous counties were Clare, Mayo, and Longford. Though only 39 incidents occurred in the small county of Longford, they led to 43 casualties. Queen’s was the only county in Ireland in which a policeman was not killed. Whenever shooting took place, the R.I.C. was usually in the line of fire. There were, for example, 860 casualties (576 wounded and 284 killed) in the almost 900 attacks and ambushes on police described in the precis. While casualties occurred in less than half (47 percent) of these attacks, the incident-to-casualty rate was almost 1:1 (96 percent).

Attacks and ambushes (as distinct from attacks on unoccupied police stations or attempts to seize occupied stations forcibly) constituted the most common category of offense (47 percent of the total). Such attacks caused 87 percent of constabulary casualties and are a very reliable indicator of overall activity against the force. Attacks on the police, usually while on patrol, increased steadily until the end of 1920. Policemen and troops were involved in 101 of the 898 attacks described in the precis. Attacks more than doubled between December 1920 and January 1921 and continued to climb during the spring of 1921, averaging 95 per month. Attacks on the police peaked in May-June 1921 and continued at a high rate in the first half of July (48). Attacks were most heavily concentrated in the Southwest, including Galway. The ambush was the most frequent tactic used against R.I.C. men, whether they patrolled on foot, on bicycles, or in motor transport (usually open Crossley tenders). Individual constables or small groups of policemen found walking, visiting friends or family, or going to or from church were also targeted. The very first incident in the database describes an ambush in which Constables Daniel McCarthy and William Finn were shot dead and Constable Byrne was wounded near Newport, Co. Tipperary, in April 1920. (78) A three-man patrol near Innishannon, Co. Cork, was ambushed later that month while sheltering in a rainstorm. A sergeant and a constable with twenty-nine and twenty-eight years of service, respectively, were shot dead with revolvers and shotguns. (79) Policemen were warned that “orders have been issued by extremists that police on leave are to be attacked,” and they were urged to “consider the circumstances carefully and bear in mind that they may also expose their families at home to danger.” (80)

As the violence continued, the consequences of decisions concerning the R.I.C. became clearer. The inspector-general admitted that since the consolidation of stations had occurred, “large areas were without police barracks and Sinn Fein was able to carry out its plans without interference,” with “gangs of armed men moving about at night.” (81) The precis accompanying the weekly summaries of incidents also make it possible to explore in more detail the deaths of individual policemen. The “killing of a policeman who was in the service of the British crown was not [considered] murder but a legitimate act of war,” (82) and the special reports list sixty killings of lone policemen. There were two or three murders each month in 1920 and about five each month from January to July 1921. Individual shootings took many forms, including the killing of Sergeant James O’Donoghue in a Cork city street, a kidnapped constable buried in a Kildare bog, District Inspector Gilbert Potter shot dead after his capture by Dan Breen, and District Inspector Philip Kelleher, who had the misfortune to be killed while staying at Kiernan’s Hotel in Granard, Co. Longford. (83) These incidents substantiate the image of policemen isolated inside their fortified stations and patrolling only in strength.

The many accounts of attacks to seize police stations by veterans of the Irish war of independence suggest that such incidents were frequent occurrences, an impression supported by the 298 such attacks tallied in R.I.C. weekly statistics. (84) There is a serious discrepancy, however, between the weekly counts of attacks on manned police stations and the precis data. The attacks specifically described in the precis as intended to capture police stations number only sixty-nine. The explanation probably lies in the use of a broader definition of a station attack by those compiling the weekly statistics; they must have included other attacks on police parties outside their stations. There were four or five station attacks each month in 1920 (a total of forty-seven), and only twenty-one in the first seven months of 1921. The comparative rarity of these incidents is not surprising because to attack the police in fortified stations, where constables and weapons were most concentrated, was beyond the resources of most I.R.A. units, and very few of the assaults succeeded. (85) Even if a station was damaged or destroyed, the attackers were not always able to overpower the R.I.C. defenders. (86) During February 1920, for example, there were attacks on nine R.I.C. stations (five in Cork). Of these, seven were repulsed and only two resulted in the disarming of the parties. (87) Determined attacks on stations were often preceded by attempts either to blow down a wall or to start a fire that would drive the policemen out of the building. The end wall at Carrigtwohill station in County Cork, for example, was “blown in” on 3 January 1920, and the arms and ammunition of the constables there were captured. (88)

The attack on the R.I.C. station at Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, on 27-28 May 1920 elicited a celebrated defense of a station. The local district inspector praised the spirited resistance of the police to a no-holds-barred republican assault, including gunfire, bombs, and burning paraffin that eventually destroyed the station. Two members of the nine-man police party were killed and the rest were wounded in the all-night fight. The official and Irish Times versions describe Sergeant Tobias Sullivan leading the party out of the burning station at dawn with fixed bayonets. (89) Sullivan, who was promoted to the rank of district inspector, was later counted among the murder victims. A son of one of the surviving constables, Simpson Holmes, remembered things differently, however, and wrote about extricating the survivors from a scullery attached to the station, the exterior entrance to which had been blocked from the outside and could have been entered by the party only from the interior of the burning station. (90)

The precis analysis also reveals the wide array of indirect activities aimed at defeating the Irish police by disrupting family and community relationships. Two categories of offense–threats against policemen and their immediate families and intimidation of those thought to be sympathetic to the R.I.C.–were deeply rooted traditions in Ireland. Together, they constituted, after ambushes, the largest number of incidents that the police encountered, especially in 1920. Threats and intimidation are properly assumed to be under-reported offenses because they are sometimes successful. Threats against individual policemen and their families increased in the spring and summer of 1920. Of the 280 threats recorded, 195 (70 percent) occurred between March and October 1920. The number of such reports then declined because threats were now less necessary to isolate the R.I.C., as policemen withdrew to fortified stations and their families moved away. (91) In June 1920 the R.I.C. authorized the payment of moving expenses to families “compelled to remove from the localities in which they are resident … by reason of their connection with the R.I.C.” (92)

The new database makes it possible to know a great deal more about who was being threatened, where these incidents took place, and what methods were being employed to ostracize Irish policemen. Seven of the most active counties and the city of Belfast accounted for more than half of the 280 reported threats against the police. Cork led the way with thirty-one (11 percent). The overwhelming majority of the threats (84 percent) were aimed at individual policemen, the rest usually against wives. Threats came most commonly as menacing letters or posted notices, which together totaled almost 53 percent of the incidents in this category. There were also twenty-three threatening visits (8 percent) by armed parties to policemen’s houses. Threats have been defined broadly to encompass damage to and theft of personal property, including forty instances (14 percent) of the theft of policemen’s treasured bicycles. There were also eleven instances of a policeman’s family being turned out of a dwelling. In June 1920 the wives of two policemen who shared lodgings in Knocknagoshel, Co. Kerry, were ordered to leave the area. They “complained to the priest, but he said he could do nothing, that they were strangers and must go.” A few days later, at two o’clock in the morning,

a party of about twenty armed and disguised men called at the house of

Margaret Sullivan … and seized herself and four children … and put them

on the road. The furniture was then put out, and [it] being raining at the

time, Mrs. Sullivan sought refuge in the post office, but the raiders

informed her that she would not be allowed to remain in the parish another

night. She then cycled to Castleisland, wet through and in deplorable

condition, to seek temporary shelter. (93)

The inspector-general remarked: “The object is to terrorise and drive the families of police out of the country, and thus attempt to break down the morale of the men.” (94) A threatening letter delivered to a constable in Drumshambo, Co. Leitrim, stated that “as a Catholic and an Irishman,” he should be ashamed of himself for undertaking the “degrading duty he was called on to perform in the interests of England and the present militarist campaign carried out at the behest of the Freemason lodges.” (95) (Many Orangemen were also Freemasons.) In May 1921 three constabulary pensioners in Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan, were visited and two of them were ordered to leave the area promptly. One of them was accused of having taken “a prominent part in the shooting of civilians by police at Mitchelstown” in 1887, when R.I.C. gunfire killed two people and wounded twenty others during a Plan of Campaign demonstration in Northeast Cork. (96) Clearly, some nationalists nursed old grievances.

The intimidation of those friendly to or conducting business with the police was comprehensive. The highest levels of intimidation were recorded in the spring and summer of 1920 (63 percent of all incidents occurred from April through September), but it was never altogether absent from the mix of tactics employed to isolate the R.I.C. Like the burning of vacant police stations, by 1921 the work of intimidation had been largely accomplished. Nearly two-thirds of all intimidation reports were received from the eleven most active counties in the South and West, with Cork accounting for more than 10 percent of the total. Those likeliest to be intimidated (fully one-third of the reported cases) were suppliers who leased housing or land to policemen. More than one-quarter of those intimidated were judged to be too friendly or sympathetic to the local police. Another one-third of intimidation reports came from people who were personally associated with the R.I.C. Thirty-two candidates for the R.I.C. (7 percent of the total) reported intimidation, along with forty-one relatives (especially parents) of policemen (8 percent). A contemporary observer stressed the wide scope of this highly favored tactic:

The campaign of intimidation stretched out far beyond the recruit [or

policeman] himself. A man might be able to protect his own person, but he

could not always protect his family. The Volunteers made a practice of

concentrating their forces against the relations of a recruit, proclaiming

a boycott of them and even assaulting those whom they suspected of being

able to bring influence to bear upon him to resign. (97)

Thirty-nine women working as barrack servants (8 percent of the total) and twenty-six former constables (5 percent) reported intimidation, as did twenty-nine women (6 percent) going out with or suspected of being friendly with policemen. As during the Land War, the threatening letter remained the most popular vehicle of intimidation, accounting for one-third of reported incidents, but another quarter consisted of visits by armed parties to their victims. A third method of intimidation was damage to property, including the burning of hay, turf, and houses and injuries to livestock; such injuries accounted for 15 percent of the reports.

Occasionally, victims of intimidation turned the tables on their tormenters. The mother of an R.I.C. constable, Mary Boylan of County Cavan, showed remarkable courage in driving away an armed party of forty men with only her spade. Still more unlikely, eight of Mrs. Boylan’s visitors were later prosecuted and convicted. It does not appear that she was disturbed again. (98) But most victims of intimidation fared considerably worse. Michael McCarthy of Caheragh, Co. Cork, allowed his hearse to be used for the interment of a constable in July 1920. The hearse was burned on the way back from the cemetery. (99) Mary Crean of Frenchpark, Co. Roscommon, was accused of supplying the police in the summer of 1920 and in reprisal had three pig rings fixed to her buttocks. (100) During a busy week in Kerry that same summer the McCarthy sisters of Portmagee had their hair shorn for being too friendly to the police, and the sister of an R.I.C. constable in Annagh suffered the same humiliation. (101) In Tralee the pub operated by an ex-R.I.C, sergeant was bombed for housing policemen. (102) Intimidation aimed at the police extended even to acts of murder. An ex-soldier of Gorey, Co. Wexford, who “offered himself as a candidate for the R.I.C.,” was shot dead in January 1921, and a former police sergeant, who was pensioned in mid-June 1921, was killed “in revenge” near Ballina, Co. Mayo, early in July. (103)

Intimidation could be difficult to distinguish from the boycotting of the police. (104) Such boycotts occurred most frequently during the spring and summer of 1920, with the largest number of incidents (forty-four) reported in July in response to an I.R.A. order. (105) Boycotting trailed off in late 1920, and only five reports appeared in the precis for 1921. The decline is not difficult to explain. The combined impact of R.I.C. consolidation in fortified stations and a coordinated campaign of ambushes, intimidation, and direct boycotting had largely succeeded in separating constables from their communities. By late 1920 there was little need to announce official boycotts in order to ostracize the police. During the five months for which there are records of boycotts, Cork was characteristically active, with twenty reports, but the largest number (twenty-three, or 17 percent of the total) occurred in Donegal. The other most active counties were Roscommon and Sligo (eleven and ten boycotts, respectively). Boycotts were usually directed at the police, with local troops sometimes included. Other common targets were those supplying the police with goods or services. Traders were ordered not to sell provisions to the police and risked punishment if they disobeyed, and railway employees refused to drive trains when policemen were passengers or R.I.C. supplies were on board. (106)

Boycotting of the police had a disproportionately adverse impact on police morale by deeply affecting working and living conditions. Unlike individual instances of intimidation or even ambushes, the boycott was aimed at all policemen and appears to have elicited broad-based compliance, if not active support. The boycott was a potent symbol of the isolation of policemen from their communities and added to their beleaguered posture in response to real threats and dangers. The Irish Volunteers called for a general boycott of the R.I.C. in June 1920, and a month later, at the height of antipolice activity, the inspector-general worriedly remarked, “It is questionable how much longer the force will stand the strain.” (107)

The posted notices that customarily announced local boycotts varied in content and style. Some were very direct:


The R.I.C. are Ireland’s enemies. Anyone that supplies them with anything,

or girls seen with them, are traitors to Ireland. RIP.

The Irish police are Ireland’s worst enemies, and were it not for them,

England could not hold us one week in slavery.

Others were more discursive:

The police, who came from among the people themselves, are traitors to

their own flesh and blood, sworn to spare neither parent, brother, sister,

or wife in the discharge of their degrading duty, the overthrow of the

God-given rights of their fellow countrymen. (108)

As with intimidation, boycotts could be aimed at the families of policemen as well as at the constables themselves. The Constabulary Gazette recounted the story of a policeman’s wife and seven children who were left behind when the R.I.C. consolidated stations: “They were boycotted to starving point. The woman and children found a temporary residence and soon again were the victims of a fresh boycott…. In order to support her children, the hapless woman was obliged to pay three times the price for milk and then could only get it at irregular hours and by stealth.” (109)

The exceptionally broad potential reach of a boycott was also illustrated by the case of two policemen in Boyle, Co. Roscommon, who visited the local Y.M.C.A. in July 1920 and noticed other members leaving as they entered. The next day, the Y.M.C.A. president, Archdeacon Wagner, sent for one of the men and told him that “at a meeting it was decided that the police should not attend the Y.M.C.A. while boycotted. This hall was established … for members of the different Protestant denominations in Boyle … and one of the constables was a member. The morale of the police is being seriously affected by a boycott of this nature.” (110) The constabulary reports for the summer of 1920 reflected significant levels of police demoralization because of boycotts, including calls from rank-and-file constables in two provinces to disband the R.I.C. (111) In West Cork policemen “could do little more than defend themselves and their barracks. Their lives were a misery … and [they] regarded themselves as mere pawns in a political game.” Conditions had become “so irksome, depressing, and hazardous as to impose a strain which very few bodies of men, however highly disciplined, could be expected to bear.” R.I.C. men were “boycotted, ostracised, forced to commandeer their food, crowded in many instances into cramped quarters without proper light or air, every man’s hand turned against them, in danger of their lives, and subjected to the appeals of their parents and their families to induce them to leave the force….” (112)

But there were also stories about how the police resourcefully overcame boycotts. District Inspector Regan reported that R.I.C.-sponsored dances in Limerick continued to be popular with local girls, even after a young woman was shot while walking with a constable. “Police have some friends,” he declared. (113) In numerous places the police were still able to “obtain supplies through friends, who smuggle them in the early hours of the morning.” (114) The police also resorted to commandeering supplies and transportation, a practice in which some traders were complicit: “Food had often to be commandeered and paid for, and traders appeared willing enough to do business on these terms and only pretended a reluctance to supply the police through fear.” But there were times when “tradesmen hated to see us enter their shops.” (115) When the Dail ceased providing leadership for boycotts of the police, (116) reports of their occurrence rapidly declined to a total of only five in 1921. “Official” retaliation against civilians or republican sympathizers may also have persuaded traders to abandon boycotting in order to protect their property from reprisals. The Sligo Champion, for example, carried a story with the headline “Abolishing a Boycott” by “Ballaghaderreen traders.” Later that month, boycotts ended in Boyle, Co. Roscommon, and Collooney, Co. Sligo. (117) The inspector-general’s monthly reports also included accounts of boycotts lapsing in Galway, Longford, Leitrim, and King’s County. There were some highly optimistic remarks about the improvement of police-community relations among “law-abiding persons and those of moderate opinions,” but it was acknowledged that “more will have to be done before their open support can be expected.” (118)

Systematic boycotting ended in 1920, but the coordinated campaign of violent attacks on the R.I.C. and heavy pressure on their potential supporters deepened alienation between the police and local communities. (119) During the spring and summer of 1920 efforts to reinforce the R.I.C. fatally damaged prospects for any rebuilding of police-community trust.


By early 1920 young Irishmen had virtually stopped applying to join the R.I.C., and police strength was reduced by resignations and retirements, despite improved wages and a special weekly bonus that took effect in late 1920. (120) From mid-June 1920 onward, the special R.I.C. weekly reports include figures on police attrition and on recruitment efforts. During the summer of 1920 (mid-June through mid-September), over 1,300 policemen left the constabulary, usually by resignation (51 percent) or retirement (43 percent). (121) On 19 September 1920 there were somewhat fewer than 10,000 men left in the R.I.C. (122) While there were about 1,400 retirements in the five years 1910-14, (123) there were 1,200 in the thirteen-month period from mid-June 1920 to mid-July 1921. It is hardly surprising that men who were eligible to take their pensions would do so when their physical endangerment and sense of alienation during the war of independence were at the highest. The mean length of service among the retirees was thirty years. But large numbers also chose to resign from the force, and these were overwhelmingly younger men who had served for much shorter periods (an average of four years) and had little money vested in a constabulary pension. Nevertheless, 63 percent of the men who were members of the R.I.C. in January 1919 were still enrolled at disbandment in 1922. Though this figure may seem impressive in some ways, the resignations had serious implications for police effectiveness because they were so heavily concentrated among younger constables, with the result that the depleted number of constables staffing R.I.C. stations were older, married men. (124)

Because government policy defined Irish unrest as a police matter, it was essential to increase the numbers in R.I.C. ranks in the face of increasing violence. It was a policy decision that helped to accomplish the I.R.A.’s objectives. Recruiting began in early 1920 among the many British military veterans who had not yet re-established themselves in civilian employment. (125) The new recruits were overwhelmingly British, but at least 953 of those recruited were Irish-born, including 231 who joined in the first week in May alone. An R.I.C. man who was sent to London to help to recruit new policemen recalled that “a canard has been put about that we recruited criminals, deliberately…. We had a police report on every candidate and accepted no man whose army character was assessed at less than `good.’ The assessment `fair’ met automatic rejection.” (126) One such recruit asserted later that “it had not been hard to join” the Irish police in London, and that he had found himself on the Irish mail train at Euston Station on the same day that he took his oath. (127) The new men were recruited directly into R.I.C. ranks, but they have been called a “third force” between the “old” R.I.C. and the military in Ireland. (128) They were variously described as “decent & nice,” “ordinary knock-about kind of chaps,” and “splendid fellows.” (129) But they never blended easily with the rest of the R.I.C. The famous problem of insufficient bottle-green uniforms for the first of the new men resulted in the name that stuck, even among themselves: the Black and Tans. (130) The name was emblematic of a perception that burrowed deeply into the popular imagination: They “were not members of the R.I.C., in the sense of being regular constables,” which created yet another barrier in police-community relations. (131) Their reception was different in other ways, too. Douglas Duff’s arrival by mail boat at Dublin’s North Wall was made memorable when he spotted four caskets covered by Union Jacks awaiting return to England. He was also handed a rifle at quayside before boarding a Crossley tender for the ride to the R.I.C. depot. (132) Even after the uniform problem was resolved and the Black and Tans were dressed the same as other policemen, differences persisted. They had military experience but a bare minimum of police training, which some did their best to dodge. (133) By contrast, members of the “old” R.I.C. were trained for six months at the Dublin depot before being posted to a station. The Black and Tans did not exhibit the accustomed R.I.C. discipline, spoke differently, and lacked the local knowledge that traditionally distinguished the Irish policeman. There was never a chance that they would unobtrusively become members of the R.I.C. or be accepted in Irish communities. (134)

Discipline was a major concern about the Black and Tan reinforcements. The Limerick county inspector John Regan observed that the framers of the constabulary Code had not anticipated the lack of training and commitment to R.I.C. organizational culture that was characteristic of the Black and Tans. Some older R.I.C. officers, head constables, and sergeants were unable to “command their respect and obedience.” Officers with recent military experience found it easier to control Black and Tan behavior. R.I.C. superiors sometimes improvised regulations and allowed troublesome characters to simply resign and leave the country rather than face formal disciplinary action. (135) But even Regan recounted incidents of dangerous indiscipline among the Black and Tans, including shooting at other R.I.C. parties. (136) When the Auxiliary Division of the R.I.C. (A.D.R.I.C.) was formed in July 1920, the reputation of the police irregulars for reckless violence became firmly embedded, both in fact and in folk memory. The Auxiliaries, former military officers recruited with the rank of police sergeant, were a counterinsurgency force that operated independently of other R.I.C. parties. (137) Auxiliaries and Black and Tans were inseparable in the public mind (138) and helped to destroy any remaining respect and trust that the constabulary commanded. Roddy Doyle puts it aptly: “They did exactly what we’d expected and wanted them to do…. We pulled the trigger and they went off.” (139)

By October 1920 the total strength of the R.I.C. began to recover, as recruitment of Black and Tans and Auxiliaries overtook attrition. (140) There were more than 12,000 members of the constabulary in December of that year (for the first time since 1892), and the numbers continued to increase until March 1921, when there were over 14,000 policemen, a total strength not achieved since 1883. Though numbers dropped off somewhat in the early spring, they climbed again to almost 14,500 by the end of July 1921. Resignations were not replaced in the weeks after the truce, until “Sinn Fein” incidents began to occur again in the late autumn. Republican activity rose steeply, despite the introduction of Black and Tans and Auxiliaries, as the recruitment of non-Irish policemen succeeded only in redefining the R.I.C. as an even more legitimate republican target. Resignations and retirements tended to increase in parallel with the levels of I.R.A. activity until the truce, a pattern especially discernible in the positive relationship between attrition and numbers of incidents against the R.I.C.

Black and Tan reinforcements reduced the number of retirements among members of the “old” R.I.C. in 1921. In the seven months in 1920 for which there are figures, there were 858 retirements, but there were only 341 from January through July 1921. On the other hand, resignations slightly increased from 1,090 in the second half of 1920 to 1,189 in the first seven months of 1921. Some of these resignations were members of the “old” R.I.C., but most Irish policemen who were determined to leave before the conflict or the future of the constabulary was resolved had already resigned or retired from the force by 1921. The high levels of resignation were among Black and Tans and Auxiliaries. Indeed, it required 5,025 fresh recruits in 1921 to maintain total police strength at 13,500-14,500. (141) The pay was attractive enough, but police life under siege in Ireland promised mostly anxious boredom, cramped quarters, strict R.I.C. discipline, community hostility, and actual danger from the I.R.A. A review of the R.I.C. personnel register, for example, indicates that Black and Tans and Auxiliaries accounted for at least 147 of the 330 police deaths (45 percent) at the hands of the I.R.A. that occurred from mid-July 1920–a disproportionately high share of total fatalities compared to their numbers in the force. (142) Many Black and Tan and Auxiliary recruits soon lost interest in their Irish adventure. One former Black and Tan summed it up well: “Remember, we were mercenary soldiers fighting for our pay, not patriots willing and anxious to die for our country…. Our job was to earn our pay by suppressing armed rebellion, not to die in some foolish … `forlorn hope.'” (143)

Reliance on thousands of non-Irish ex-servicemen to fill the ranks was disastrous for the image of the R.I.C., as it further militarized the police role and increased their distance from the nationalist population. (144) It appears that many Black and Tans initially exhibited enthusiasm to get involved. (145) John Regan felt that the Black and Tans were an asset because they bolstered police confidence, while the county inspector in the West Riding of Cork reported that the Auxiliaries were “performing most valuable work,” and thought that “if there were several more companies in the Riding …, I.R.A. activity would cease soon.” (146) The Morning Post, reprinted in the government’s Weekly Summary, observed that the R.I.C. “had not had a chance” and were “`let down’ by the civil authority” until the arrival of the Black and Tans in the spring of 1920. The R.I.C. “saw in this reinforcement proof that the authorities were in earnest.” (147) The effect of the Black and Tans on rank-and-file policemen in beleaguered stations, however, was more mixed. (148) Patrick Shea remembered R.I.C. men finding them “a revelation and a plague and a godsend.” (149) Some policemen found their new comrades’ “companionship not altogether congenial, but recognized their good fighting qualities,” even if they kept their distance. (150) The son of a disbanded R.I.C. man recalled that his father was “never harsh in his judgement of the `Black and Tans.’ All he would say was, `There was good and bad among them.'” (151)

The nationalist press showed much less forbearance. The Kerryman lamented that the “old discipline is indeed gone and the introduction of the new, English element, `the black and tans,’ … thoroughly upsets their Irish comrades.” The Irish News characterized the appearance of the Black and Tans in police ranks as “an unnatural combination; and it was thrust on the R.I.C. sorely against their will and with very disagreeable consequences.” (152) A lengthy doggerel (“R.I.C. Reminiscences”), apparently composed by a former policeman, ended with the words, “For better to be wiped out to a man/Than seek support from British Black and Tan.” (153)

The daughter of a disbanded policeman called the Black and Tans a “disaster” and “gun happy.” She recalled being told by an “old” R.I.C. man that he did not know “if the shot will come from behind [the Black and Tans] or behind the ditch.” (154) Another policeman’s daughter remembered being called the “offspring of a Black & Tan …; the nastiest name an `old R.I.C. man’ could be called was `Black & Tan.'” (155) Patrick Shea, the son of a head constable, understood that “something needed to be done to relieve and sustain” the R.I.C., but the Black and Tans

had neither religion [n]or morals, they used foul language, they had the

old soldier’s talent for dodging and scrounging, they spoke in strange

accents, called the Irish “natives,” associated with low company, stole

from one another, sneered at the customs of the country, drank to excess,

and put sugar on their porridge. (156)

The Black and Tan and Auxiliary reinforcements were also associated with reprisals against the noncombatant Irish population that began simultaneously with their appearance. (157) A contemporary writer observed: “Of these mysterious burnings, always following close on murder of police or military, Thurles and Mallow (a second outbreak in each town), Cork, Tuam, Ennistymon, Miltown Malbay, and Tobercurry were classic examples, and a very large number of isolated creameries also went up in flames.” (158) Limerick County Inspector Regan assumed that since the Black and Tans “did not know friend (if they had such) from foe, innocent people must have suffered in their acts of retaliation.” (159) “Unauthorised retaliation” in early 1920 involved the military, but reprisals became most closely associated with the growing numbers of Black and Tans and Auxiliaries, though some R.I.C. officers wanted to restrain vengeful attacks by Irish policemen. (160) The government initially tried to exercise some control over retaliation by authorizing “official punishments” that usually resulted in burning the property of those who could have warned or aided the crown forces but had failed to do so. Retaliation against civilian communities continued, despite the adverse publicity, hostile opinion in Britain, and Lloyd George’s privately expressed misgivings. (161)

The government’s position on official terrorism may have been carefully ambiguous, but it was understood clearly enough among the Irish nationalist population when homes and businesses were subjected to summary searches. (162) In January 1921, R.I.C. station parties received confidential instructions on both house searches and burnings, which confirm that reprisals were indeed officially sanctioned. The instructions included the customary pieties about retaliation being “bad” policy because “it casts an undue burden on the rates of counties and is demoralising to the men who take part.” To burn civilian property was said to be “indefensible unless a house has been deliberately, with the consent of the owner, used for attack purposes or is a proved arsenal …, and only if it can be carried out without endangering neighbouring property.” A house burning could be executed only on the “direct order of an officer,” and a detailed report on the subsequent action was required. (163) One former Black and Tan constable recalled “official reprisals” as a “horrible and dastardly burning of houses and furniture” that “were done with the due force of the law.” (164)

The government tried to maintain its distance from “official reprisals,” but late in the summer of 1920 it began to publish a news sheet for the police that did little to discourage retaliation against civilians. (165) The Weekly Summary was intended as a morale booster for policemen, and as it became more difficult to produce original material each week, the news sheet resorted to crude propaganda and the reprinting of pieces from other newspapers. (166) Constables were reminded, for example, by the Irish chief secretary that they were the guardians of the law, while at the same time it was pointed out that

the police see their friends and comrades foully murdered [and] suffer

intense provocation, but they must continue to maintain, in spite of this

provocation, that self-control which has characterised them in the past….

The police exists for the welfare of Ireland and to lift her from the

terror of the pistol…. To hunt down the murderers is the paramount duty

of the police. (167)

And on the subject of “What causes reprisals?,” the Weekly Summary answered:

Reprisals are wrong. They are bad for the discipline of the force. They are

bad for Ireland, especially if the wholly innocent suffer. Reprisals are

wrong, but reprisals do not occur by accident. They are the result of the

brutal, cowardly murder of police officers…. Police murder produces

reprisals. Stop murdering policemen. (168)

In the same issue there appeared a letter by Major-General Hugh Tudor, police commander in Ireland, who described the Black and Tans as “interchangeable with the old-time constables,” and declared that the assertion “that they have instigated or led reprisals is at complete variance with fact.” Tudor also denied that the “auxiliary division has in any way been concerned in any of the alleged reprisals.” He conceded that reprisals had “undoubtedly occurred,” but he stoutly maintained that they “have been due to men being goaded beyond human endurance.” (169) Tudor issued circulars against reprisals in the autumn of 1920, but he falsely claimed several months later that Cork city had been burned by “Shinners,” despite reports from two R.I.C. officers that flatly assumed A.D.R.I.C. responsibility, and despite a damning military investigation. (170) Tudor perfectly exemplified the government’s evasive approach to dealing with “official reprisals,” and along with his political masters, he contributed substantially to the growing domestic and international political pressures for a settlement in 1921. (171)

Several examples illustrate the undeniable fact that reprisals had official approval, even if they were not openly acknowledged. The Balbriggan incident in September 1920, after the shooting of Head Constable Burke, was described by the R.I.C. officer in charge at the nearby Gormanstown camp that evening:

As adjutant, I sent a couple of tenders of men into the town to help the

local police. Two civilians were killed and a number of houses burned. It

was stated in the newspapers and books that the Gormanstown police got out

of hands [sic] and broke out of barracks. This is certainly not true. I

told off the party and saw them loaded in the lorries or tenders and start

off. No men broke out of barracks. (172)

The inspector-general’s report for October 1920 mentioned with evident satisfaction that after the Balbriggan reprisal “Sinn Fein has kept very quiet in County Dublin, and a number of prominent members of the movement have left and have not since returned.” (173) The son of an R.I.C. sergeant at Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo, recalled the aftermath of the Tourmakeady ambush in May 1921, in which four policemen were killed:

The Cooperative Stores, the empty house near Drimbawn Gate, and Tom

O’Toole’s in Tourmakeady were destroyed as a reprisal on the night of the

ambush. My father was ordered, some time later, to take a party to burn the

house belonging to O’Brien’s mother in Cross. He refused the order and

resigned. (174)

The reprisal policy terminally tarnished the reputation of the R.I.C. as Ireland’s civil police. As John Regan summed up, reprisals were cruel and did nothing to help the police. (175) Patrick Shea recalled that the Black and Tans’ “unconventional ideas on retaliation were adding chaos to terror.” (176) The further militarization of the R.I.C. through Black and Tan recruitment and reprisals irrevocably brutalized the Irish political environment. Far from suppressing rebellion, this final compromising of the role of the civil police coincided with a steep increase in violent republican incidents that produced the truce in July 1921.


The Treaty and the subsequent disbandment of the R.I.C. signaled that the war against the R.I.C. had succeeded and that militarization of the police role had failed. (177) The attempted suppression of nationalist aspirations increasingly isolated policemen from their communities and effectively neutralized the R.I.C. as a civil police. The sophisticated combination of tactics used against the R.I.C., ranging from direct threats, intimidation, and boycotts to ambushes and station attacks, effectively destroyed the R.I.C. without the necessity of defeating it. The tactics of consolidation, recruitment abroad, and violent reprisal adopted to fight the I.R.A. both discredited and demoralized the police, resulting in the recognition by all sides that there would be no place for the R.I.C. in post-truce Ireland.

Yet even at the end the R.I.C. received tributes from its determined opponents. When handing over Naas station in 1922, an R.I.C. officer remarked to the I.R.A. commander that the Free State could have had almost the entire constabulary as its police force. The I.R.A. man replied: “But if we hadn’t dealt with the R.I.C., there would have been no Free State. We weren’t afraid of the army. We could always fool them, but your fellows had the most marvelous local knowledge, which was too much for us. Anyhow, we want to have our police modelled on your old lot.” (178) In 1921 the men of the “old” R.I.C. had had enough, and the respect of their enemies was cold comfort as they contemplated disbandment and life in a new Ireland.


(1) The constabulary policed the whole of Ireland except Dublin, which was the jurisdiction of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. See David Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Life, 1913-21: Provincial Experience of War and Revolution (Dublin, 1977), 1.

(2) See Stanley H. Palmer, Police and Protest in England and Ireland, 1780-1850 (Cambridge, 1988).

(3) See W.J. Lowe and E.L. Malcolm, “The Domestication of the Royal Irish Constabulary, 1836-1922,” Irish Economic and Social History 19 (1992), 27-48.

(4) Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Life, 1-4.

(5) Weekly Summaries of Outrages against the Police and Returns of Recruitment, Retirement and Dismissal, April 1920-Dec. 1921 (Public Record Office [PRO], Kew, CO 904/148-50).

(6) J.J. Lee, Ireland, 1912-1985: Politics and Society (Cambridge, 1989), 28-36; Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Life, 129; Peter Hart, The I.R.A. and Its Enemies: Violence and Community in Cork, 1916-23 (Oxford, 1998), 204.

(7) Examples of Volunteers or Sinn Fein members suspected of firing at policemen are found in the inspector-general’s and county inspectors’ monthly confidential reports (hereafter R.I.C. Monthly Reports). See County Inspector, Cork West Riding to Inspector-General, 1 Aug. 1914 (PRO, CO 904/94, p. 92); County Inspector, King’s County to Inspector-General, 1 April 1916 (PRO, CO 904/99, pp. 522-23).

(8) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 15 June 1916 (PRO, CO 904/99, pp. 644-50; 637-38). For attacks on R.I.C. stations and patrols, see R.I.C. Monthly Reports, 11 April 1917, 1, 11 May, 1 July 1918, 1 Jan. 1919 (PRO, CO 904/102, pp. 412-13, 417; CO 904/105, pp. 860-61, 1005-6, 1066, 1092-93; CO 904/106, pp. 407-8; CO 904/107, pp. 860-61, 888-89). See also Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Life, 9; David Fitzpatrick, The Two Irelands, 1912-1939 (Oxford, 1998), 87-88.

(9) Hart, I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 55.

(10) Memoir of John Regan, n.d. (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland [PRONI], Belfast, D. 3160, p. 170).

(11) Charles Townshend, The British Campaign in Ireland, 1919-1921: The Development of Political and Military Policies (Oxford, 1975), 7-11, 55; Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Life, 27-28.

(12) Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Life, 7-8; Donal J. O’Sullivan, The Irish Constabularies, 1822-1922: A Century of Policing in Ireland (Dingle, Co. Kerry, 1999), 274.

(13) Regan Memoir, 170. See also Joost Augusteijn, From Public Defiance to Guerrilla Warfare: The Experience of Ordinary Volunteers in the Irish War of Independence, 1916-1921 (Dublin, 1996), 189.

(14) See, for example, R.I.C. Monthly Report (Cork West Riding), 1 Aug. 1918 (PRO, CO 904/106, pp. 705-6). Arthur Mitchell, Revolutionary Government in Ireland: Dail Eireann, 1919-22 (Dublin, 1995), 68-69; O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 288-89.

(15) James Gleeson, Bloody Sunday (London, 1962), 39-40. See also ibid., 41; Dan Breen, My Fight for Irish Freedom (Dublin, 1981), 34; Richard Abbott, Police Casualties in Ireland, 1919-1922 (Dublin, 2000), 30-33.

(16) See Townshend, British Campaign, 213.

(17) Portadown District Confidential Patrol Diary, 25 July 1914, 19 Jan. 1917; Helens Bay Confidential Patrol Diary, 10 Oct. 1918 (Royal Ulster Constabulary [R.U.C.] Museum, Belfast); O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 279.

(18) Donaghadee Confidential Patrol Diary, 21 Jan. 1918 (R.U.C. Museum).

(19) Standing Rules and Regulations for the Government and Guidance of the Royal Irish Constabulary, 6th ed. [the R.I.C. Code] (Dublin, 1911), 164; R.I.C. Monthly Report, 13 May 1919 (PRO, CO 904/108, p. 738). See also P.H. Bagenal, “The Royal Irish Constabulary and Sinn Fein,” Nineteenth Century and After 92:545 (1922), 127; O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 287.

(20) For seizures of R.I.C. arms during the years 1917-19, see Augusteijn, Public Defiance to Guerrilla Warfare, 16; R.I.C. Monthly Reports, 15 Sept., 14 Nov., 15 Dec. 1919, 13 Jan. 1920 (PRO, CO 904/109, pp. 741-42; CO 904/110, pp. 244, 254, 478, 706, 709).

(21) Helens Bay Confidential Patrol Diary, 3 Nov. 1919; Killorglin Inspection Book, 19 Feb., 27 Aug., 26 Nov. 1919, 9 Jan. 1920 (Garda Siochana Museum, Dublin).

(22) Donaghadee Confidential Patrol Diary, 3 Nov. 1919.

(23) Ibid., 19 Feb. 1917. The instructions included directions to seize control of the local press: “Nothing likely to excite the people should be published in the local newspapers, and all news of the disturbance except official news should be forbidden.”

(24) R.I.C. Monthly Reports, 15 Sept., 15 Oct. 1919 (PRO, CO 904/109, pp. 743,888; CO 904/110, p. 5).

(25) Donaghadee Confidential Patrol Diary, 8 Nov., 12 Dec. 1919. The later deployment of the Ulster Special Constabulary is not considered in this article. (See Michael Farrell, Arming the Protestants: The Formation of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, 1920-27 [London, 1983]; Abbott, Police Casualties, 141-47).

(26) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 15 Dec. 1919 (PRO, CO 904/110, pp. 475-76). See O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 305-6, concerning Inspector-General Byrne’s opposition to station closings. Donaghadee Confidential Patrol Diary, 7 Dec 1919, 8, 13 Jan. 1920, 6 Feb. 1920; Killorglin Inspection Book, 27 Aug., 26 Nov. 1919.

(27) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 14 Feb. 1920 (PRO, CO 904/111, pp. 7-9).

(28) Ibid., 7.

(29) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 16 March 1920 (PRO, CO 904/111, pp. 274-75).

(30) Donaghadee Confidential Patrol Diary, 3 Nov. 1919.

(31) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 13 Jan. 1920 (PRO, CO 904/110, p. 706).

(32) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 13 March 1919 (PRO, CO 904/108, p. 247); Townshend, British Campaign, 4.

(33) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 15 Dec. 1919 (PRO, CO 904/110, p. 485); Mitchell, Revolutionary Government, 60.

(34) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 1, 15 Aug. 1919 (PRO, CO 904/109, pp. 504, 631).

(35) Tipperary People, 16 April 1920. See also Tipperary Star, 10 April 1920.

(36) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 16 June 1919 (PRO, CO 904/109, pp. 7-8).

(37) Mitchell, Revolutionary Government, 37, 69; Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Life, 10-11.

(38) See, for example, R.I.C. Monthly Report, 13 May 1919 (PRO, CO 904/108, pp. 739-40).

(39) See, for example, R.I.C. Monthly Report, 15 Sept. 1919 (PRO, CO 904/109, p. 743).

(40) R.I.C., Monthly Reports, 13 May, 16 June 1919 (PRO, CO 904/108, p. 743; CO 904/109, p. 6).

(41) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 15 Dec. 1919 (PRO, CO 904/110, p. 640).

(42) R.I.C. Monthly Reports, 16 June, 11 July 1919 (PRO, CO 904/109, pp. 6-7, 253).

(43) R.I.C. Monthly Reports, 13 May, 16 June 1919 (PRO, CO 904/108, p. 739; CO 904/109, P. 7).

(44) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 13 May 1919 (PRO, CO 904/108, p. 743).

(45) R.I.C. Monthly Reports, 11 July 1920 (PRO, CO 904/109, p. 253); 1 Jan. 1920 (PRO, CO 904/110, p. 888). See also R.I.C. Monthly Report, 15 Dec. 1919 (PRO, CO 904/110, p. 477); Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Liar, 11-17; “Tales of the R.I.C.: The Informer,” Blackwood’s Magazine 209 (1921), 412; Periscope, “The Last Days of Dublin Castle,” Blackwood’s Magazine 212 (1922), 141-42; Townshend, British Campaign, 31, 41; Hart, I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 57-58, 64.

(46) Charles Townshend, Britain’s Civil Wars: Counterinsurgency in the Twentieth Century (London, 1986), 57, 61; British Campaign, 184; Keith Jeffrey, “British Security Policy in Ireland, 1919-21,” in Peter Collins, ed., Nationalism and Unionism: Conflict in Ireland, 1885-1921 (Belfast 1994), 164.

(47) Douglas V. Duff, Sword for Hire: The Saga of a Modern Free Companion (London, 1936), 76-77.

(48) “Gradually, policemen were turned into soldiers, soldiers into policemen, and ex-soldiers into hybrids collectively known as ‘Black and Tans'” (Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Life, 17).

(49) Townshend, British Campaign, 42. For testimony about R.I.C. unfamiliarity with military weapons, see John D. Brewer, The Royal Irish Constabulary: An Oral History (Belfast, 1990), 75.

(50) Townshend, British Campaign, 55, 75, 166; Richard Bennett, The Black and Tans: The British Special Police in Ireland (New York, 1955), 46.

(51) Bennett, Black and Tans, 25, 47-48, 57, 60, 83-84; Mitchell, Revolutionary Government, 200-2.

(52) Charles Townshend, “Policing Insurgency in Ireland, 1914-23,” in D.M. Anderson and David Killingray, eds., Policing and Decolonization: Politics, Nationalism, and the Police, 1917-65 (Manchester, 1992), 39.

(53) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 15 Dec. 1919 (CO 904/110, p. 486).

(54) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 13 Jan. 1920 (CO 904/110, p. 714).

(55) Regan Memoir, 116. See also Richard Hawkins, “Dublin Castle and the Royal Irish Constabulary, 1916-1922,” in Desmond Williams, ed., The Irish Struggle, 1916-26 (London, 1966), 167.

(56) In the words of Peter Hart, “the I.R.A. could more or less do as they liked after dark” (I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 77); Townshend, British Campaign, 42.

(57) Mitchell, Revolutionary Government, 79, 127; R.I.C. Monthly Report, 14 Feb. 1920 (PRO, CO 904/111, p. 16); Hart, I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 72; O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 300.

(58) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 14 Feb. 1920 (PRO, CO 904/111, p. 6).

(59) T.J. Smith to Assistant Undersecretary, Weekly Summaries, 30 March 1920 (PRO, CO 904/148, p. 24).

(60) The special weekly reports were nearly destroyed by British civil servants. See Gerard O’Brien, “The Missing Personnel Records of the R.I.C.,” Irish Historical Studies 31:124 (Nov. 1999), 505-12.

(61) Charles Townshend refers to these summary statistics in British Campaign, 123, and they are a principal source for Richard Abbott’s Police Casualties.

(62) The assistance of Dr. Scott Mantie, State University of New York, with this data analysis is gratefully acknowledged.

(63) The destruction of a large number of stations (299) by the end of April 1920 was part of a republican commemoration of the Easter Rising. See Mitchell, Revolutionary Government, 128-29; Townshend, British Campaign, 65; Liz Curtis, The Cause of Ireland: From the United Irishmen to Partition (Dublin, 1994), 326; Bennett, Black and Tans, 40.

(64) The R.I.C. transport division is described in Abbott, Police Casualties, 233-36.

(65) Mitchell, Revolutionary Government, 151; Hart, I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 54; O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 306.

(66) Hart, I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 233, 236.

(67) For similar data on County Cork, see Hart, I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 86-88, 121.

(68) O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 326.

(69) Mitchell, Revolutionary Government, 266.

(70) Bennett, Black and Tans, 92.

(71) The shooting of District Inspector Precival Lea-Wilson in Gorey, Co. Wexford, on 15 June 1920 is not, for example, listed in the precis. Lea-Wilson’s widow Marie later acquired the lost Caravaggio painting “The Taking of Christ” and gave it to the Leeson Street Jesuit community in Dublin. See O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 317; Jim Herlihy, The Royal Irish Constabulary: A Short History and Genealogical Guide (Dublin, 1997), 196. For accounts of why Lea-Wilson was shot, see Tim Pat Coogan, Michael Collins: A Biography (London, 1991), 44-45; Abbott, Police Casualties, 88-89.

(72) See Abbott, Police Casualties, 295-96, 311-13.

(73) Hart, I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 21-38; Weekly Summaries, 13 Feb. 1921, CO 904/150, p. 194; Limerick Leader, 4 Feb. 1921; Abbott, Police Casualties, 195-97.

(74) See the census figures for 1926 in W.E. Vaughan and A.J. Fitzpatrick, Irish Historical Statistics: Population, 1821-1971 (Dublin, 1978).

(75) Townshend, British Campaign, 92.

(76) Ibid., 135, 141; Britain’s Civil Wars, 61.

(77) Hart, I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 50-51.

(78) Weekly Summaries, 9 April 1920, CO 904/148, pp. 5, 16-17; Tipperary People, 16 April 1920; Abbott, Police Casualties, 68-69.

(79) Weekly Summaries, 25 April 1920, CO 904/148, pp. 82, 104; Cork Examiner, 26 April 1920; Abbott, Police Casualties, 73.

(80) Portadown Confidential Patrol Diary, 28 April 1920.

(81) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 19 Nov. 1920 (PRO, CO 904/113, p. 28).

(82) Conor Cruise O’Brien, “Ireland’s Fissures, and my Family’s,” Atlantic Monthly 273:1 (Jan. 1994), 66. In “Tales of the R.I.C.: The Bog Cemetery” it is observed that the killing of a policeman “served him right for joining the R.I.C.” (Blackwood’s Magazine 210 [1921], 305).

(83) Hart, I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 1-5; Weekly Summaries, 29 June 1921, CO 904/150, p. 423; Dan Breen, My Fight, 161-62; Gilbert Potter to J.R.W. Goulden, 14 Nov. [?], 29 Dec. [1967?] (Trinity College, Dublin [T.C.D.], Goulden Papers, 7382a/196, 130); Ernie O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound (Dublin, 1990), 308; R.I.C. Monthly Report, 19 Nov. 1920 (PRO, CO 904/113, p. 29); Abbott, Police Casualties, 140, 150-51, 225-26; O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 333-34.

(84) Breen, My Fight, 106-22; Ernie O’Malley, Raids and Rallies (Dublin, 1982); O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound, 144-48, 154-56, 176-77; Tom Barry, Guerilla Days in Ireland (Cork, 1981), 71-77, 142-53; Coogan, Michael Collins, 121.

(85) Bennett, Black and Tans, 28; O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 305.

(86) See also Hart, I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 80.

(87) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 16 March 1920 (PRO, CO 904/111, pp. 273-74).

(88) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 14 Feb. 1920 (PRO, CO 904/111, pp. 16-17); M.G. Valiulis, Portrait ora Revolutionary: General Richard Mulcahy and the Founding of the Irish Free State (Lexington, Ken., 1992), 49.

(89) Report of District Inspector W.A. Egan, 28 May 1920 (PRO, 904/148, pp. 199-200); Irish Times, 29 May 1920; Abbott, Police Casualties, 79-84.

(90) Simpson Holmes to J.R.W. Goulden, 17 Oct. 1967 (T.C.D., Goulden Papers, 7382a/114). See also Albert Hoey to Goulden, 24 Oct. 1967, and John Madden to Goulden, 8 Aug. 1967 (7382a/101, 117).

(91) Augusteijn, Public Defiance to Guerrilla Warfare, 203-04.

(92) R.I.C. Circular, 22 June 1920 (T.C.D., Goulden Papers, 7373/3). See Abbott, Police Casualties, 133, concerning special accommodation for R.I.C. families.

(93) Weekly Summaries, 20, 25 June 1920, CO 904/148, p. 258.

(94) Weekly Summaries, 23, 25 June 1920, CO 904/148, p. 284.

(95) Weekly Summaries, 4 Aug. 1920, CO 904/149, p. 32. See Mitchell, Revolutionary Government, 148-49, 162, for the scant assistance afforded to policemen who resigned.

(96) Weekly Summaries, 9 May 1921, CO 904/150, p. 378. J.S. Donnelly, Jr., The Land and the People of Nineteenth-Century Cork: The Rural Economy and the Land Question (London, 1975), 344-45.

(97) I.O. (C.J.C. Street), The Administration of Ireland, 1920 (New York, 1920, 275.

(98) Weekly Summaries, 19 March 1920, CO 904/148, p. 28.

(99) Weekly Summaries, 23 July 1920, CO 904/149, p. 15.

(100) Weekly Summaries, 7 Aug. 1920, CO 904/149, p. 59.

(101) Weekly Summaries, 1 July 1920, CO 904/148, p. 286; Kerryman, 3 July 1920; Weekly Summaries, 27 June 1920, CO 904/148, p. 285.

(102) Weekly Summaries, 25 June 1920, CO 904/148, p. 265; Kerryman, 3 July 1920.

(103) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 26 Feb. 1921 (PRO, CO 904/114, p. 36); 6 July 1921 (CO 904/150, p. 439); Abbott, Police Casualties, 264. District Inspector John Regan was well aware of the intimidation of police relatives, but he believed that, “all things considered, the number of resignations was not very high.” A maid at his parents’ residence once passed on a warning that he should not go home (Regan Memoir, 161-62).

(104) Augusteijn, Public Defiance to Guerrilla Warfare, 200.

(105) Abbott, Police Casualties, 130-31.

(106) Curtis, Cause of Ireland, 328; Mitchell, Revolutionary Government, 181, 205-6.

(107) Street, Administration of Ireland, 276; R.I.C. Monthly Report, 14 July 1920 (PRO, CO 904/112, p. 25).

(108) Weekly Summaries, 18, 14, 24 April 1920, CO 904/148, pp. 97, 93, 115. See also Weekly Summaries, 30 April, 4 July 1920, CO 904/148, pp. 93, 121, 313.

(109) Constabulary Gazette, 20 Aug. 1921.

(110) Weekly Summaries, 19 July 1920, CO 904/149, p. 48.

(111) Townshend, British Campaign, 109; O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 329.

(112) R.I.C. Monthly Reports, 14 Aug., 17 Sept. 1920 (PRO, CO 904/112, pp. 287, 292, 548, 554-55).

(113) Regan Memoir, 161.

(114) Weekly Summaries, 14 Aug. 1920, CO 904/148, p. 289. See also Patrick Shea, Voices and the Sound of Drums: An Irish Autobiography (Belfast, 1983), 65.

(115) R.I.C. Monthly Reports, 14 July, 14 Aug. 1920 (PRO, CO 904/112, pp. 14, 283); Douglas V. Duff, Sword for Hire, 70.

(116) Mitchell, Revolutionary Government, 210.

(117) Sligo Champion, 18 Sept., 2, 16 Oct. 1920.

(118) R.I.C. Monthly Reports, 18 Nov., 18 Dec. 1920 (PRO, CO 904/113, pp. 29-30, 33-34, 36, 39, 291, 295-96).

(119) During the 1920-21 reporting period there were also 143 Royal Mail robberies that affected R.I.C. documents and forty other incidents of theft or damage of R.I.C. property.

(120) Constabulary and Police Act (Ireland), 8 & 9 Geo. 5. c.53; Abbott, Police Casualties, 132; O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 344.

(121) There is no category for desertions from the R.I.C. in the weekly statistics, and incidents such as the Listowel mutiny in July 1920 were not formally acknowledged. See Memoirs of Constable Jeremiah Mee, ca. 1950, typescript belonging to Michael R. Cook, London.

(122) Royal Irish Constabulary, Returns of Personnel, 1841-1919 (PRO, HO 184/54); Townshend, British Campaign, 92.

(123) Returns of Personnel, 1841-1919 (PRO, HO 184/54), cited in Brian Griffin, “The Irish Police, 1836-1914: A Social History” (Ph.D. dissertation, Loyola University of Chicago, 1990), 862.

(124) Lowe and Malcolm, “Domestication of the R.I.C.,” 46-48.

(125) Members of the R.I.C. recruitment team in London described their activities in V.H. Scott to J.R.W. Goulden, 21 Feb. 1967 (T.C.D., Goulden Papers, 7382a/68); J. O’Mahony to Goulden, 12 April 1967 (ibid., 7382a/81. One member of the Black and Tans recalled that “it was just a job and it was the only thing I was able to get, or likely to get” (Brewer, Royal Irish Constabulary, 105).

(126) P. Mahon to J.R.W. Goulden, 11 Feb. 1970 (T.C.D., Goulden Papers, 7382a). See also M.P. Mahon to E.L. Malcolm, 13 Dec. 1989 (in the possession of the author).

(127) Duff, Sword for Hire, 54.

(128) Townshend, Britain’s Civil Wars, 57; Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Life, 21-22.

(129) Scott to Goulden; O’Mahony to Goulden (see note 125); and W. Duffy to J.R.W. Goulden, 20 April 1920 (T.C.D., Goulden Papers, 7382a/83).

(130) There was even communication with the Admiralty concerning the possibility of wearing Royal Marine uniforms in order to avoid khaki. See Weekly Summaries, 3 May 1920, CO 904/148, p. 132; Bennett, Black and Tans, 37-38, 178.

(131) Street, Administration of Ireland, 279.

(132) Duff, Sword for Hire, 54-55.

(133) Ibid., 58-61; Townshend, British Campaign, 94; Brewer, Royal Irish Constabulary, 107.

(134) Townshend, Britain’s Civil Wars, 57-58; L.W. McBride, The Greening of Dublin Castle: The Transformation of Bureaucratic and Judicial Personnel in Ireland, 1892-1922 (Washington, D.C., 1991), 267-68.

(135) Regan Memoir, 121-22, 153; Brewer, Royal Irish Constabulary, III; Abbott, Police Casualties, 172-73; O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 310-12.

(136) Regan Memoir, 153-54; Brewer, Royal Irish Constabulary, 153-54. See also R.I.C. Monthly Report, 18 Dec. 1920 (PRO, CO 904/113, p. 294) for an account of petty criminality among Black and Tan recruits. For disciplinary and control problems, see Bennett, Black and Tans, 38, 190; O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 354-55.

(137) Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Life, 23. For problems in selection and training standards, see Townshend, British Campaign, 142-43. See also Abbott, Police Casualties, 106-9; Bennett, Black and Tans, 76-78, III.

(138) V.H. Scott to J.R.W. Goulden, 21 Feb. 1967 (T.C.D., Goulden Papers, 7382a/68); Townshend, British Campaign, 109-12, 159-60; Bennett, Black and Tans, 133.

(139) Roddy Doyle, A Star Called Henry (New York, 1999), 264; Bennett, Black and Tans, 56.

(140) From September 1920, there were 39 notations of “temporary cadets” (ranging in number from 6 to 156) who are not included in the weekly totals. “B” men of the Ulster Special Constabulary were counted among R.I.C. recruits beginning in October 1920. In mid-September 1921, 895 “B” Specials and 1,439 Auxiliaries were counted in the weekly statistics (Weekly Summaries, 18 Sept. 1921, CO 904/150, p. 486).

(141) Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Life, 40-43.

(142) PRO, HO 184/36-42. The first Black and Tan was killed on 11 July 1920 (Abbott, Police Casualties, 91). The R.I.C. personnel register clearly records a total of 182 deaths among Black and Tans and Auxiliaries. Of these, 27 died of natural causes and an additional 8 are listed as suicides. The register is almost certainly incomplete for injuries in the line of duty (12) and deaths among members of the Auxiliary Division (3). The review of the personnel register was completed by my research assistant Jessica McLaughlin.

(143) Duff, Sword for Hire, 73-74.

(144) Townshend, British Campaign, 136-37, 204; O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 349.

(145) Duff, Sword for Hire, 58-59; Regan Memoir, 156.

(146) Regan Memoir, 120; R.I.C. Monthly Report, 26 Feb. 1921 (PRO, CO 904/114, p. 7). The Auxiliaries were thought by some to be “superfighters” (Bennett, Black and Tans, 133, 145).

(147) Weekly Summary, 15 April 1921.

(148) O’Sullivan, Irish Constabularies, 310.

(149) Shea, Voices, 45.

(150) Periscope, “Last Days of Dublin Castle,” 177; Brewer, Royal Irish Constabulary, 112; Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Life, 23-25; Hart, I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 83; O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound, 320.

(151) John Hughes to E.L. Malcolm, 2 May 1990 (letter in the possession of the author); Bennett, Black and Tans, 178-79.

(152) Kerryman, 24 July 1920; Irish News, 4 Feb. 1922.

(153) Anonymous, n.d. (T.C.D., Goulden Papers, MS 7377/5/12).

(154) E. Oakley to E.L. Malcolm, 10 June 1990 (letter in the possession of the author).

(155) Kay O’Cuileanain to E.L. Malcolm, 29 April 1990 (letter in the possession of the author).

(156) Shea, Voices, 37, 42-45.

(157) Hart, I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 81-83.

(158) Periscope, “Last Days of Dublin Castle,” 178-79; Bennett, Black and Tans, 94-95.

(159) Regan Memoir, 123.

(160) Mitchell, Revolutionary Government, 272; Townshend, British Campaign, 95-96; Brewer, Royal Irish Constabulary, 103, 113-14; Hart, I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 77; Bennett, Black and Tans, 25-26, 32, 95-96.

(161) Townshend, British Campaign, 95-96, 115-16, 19-20; Britain’s Civil Wars, 65; D.G. Boyce, Englishmen and Irish Troubles: British Public Opinion and the Making of Irish Policy (London, 1972), 56; Mitchell, Revolutionary Government, 208-9; Jeffery, “British Security Policy,” 169); Abbott, Police Casualties, 172-79; Bennett, Black and Tans, 59-60, 75-76, 154, 157. Peter Hart goes so far as to characterize those responsible for reprisals as police “death squads” (I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 10, 100).

(162) Hart, I.R.A. and Its Enemies, 251.

(163) Portadown District Confidential Patrol Diary, 3 Jan. 1921; Bennett, Black and Tans, 157.

(164) Duff, Sword for Hire, 69, 78; Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Life, 35.

(165) Townshend, British Campaign, 112; Bennett, Black and Tans, 101.

(166) Douglas Duff asked, “When has there ever been a more fatuous, childish, and lying a government publication than the Weekly Summary?” (Sword for Hire, 76-78). See also Mitchell, Revolutionary Government, 212-13.

(167) Weekly Summary, 1 Oct. 1920; Abbott, Police Casualties, 173-74.

(168) Weekly Summary, 8 Oct. 1920.

(169) Ibid.

(170) Cork Enquiry: Supplementary Report by General Tudor, 10 Jan. 1921 (PRO, CO 904/150, p. 5). The word “Shinners” is crossed out, with “Sinn Feiners” written in. For reports of R.I.C. officers on 13 and 15 Dec. 1920, see ibid., 14, 21. See also Townshend, British Campaign, 138-39; Abbott, Police Casualties, 177-79; Bennett, Black and Tans, 139-43.

(171) Martin F. Seedorf, “Defending Reprisals: Sir Hamar Greenwood and the `Troubles,’ 1920-21,'” Eire-Ireland 25:4 (1990), 77-92; Townshend, British Campaign, 116.

(172) V.H. Scott to J.R.W. Goulden, 21 Feb. 1967 (T.C.D., Goulden Papers, 7382a/68). See also Bennett, Black and Tans, 93.

(173) R.I.C. Monthly Report, 19 Nov. 1920 (PRO, CO 904/n3, p. 27).

(174) Statement by J.R.W. Goulden, 23 Jan. 1956 (T.C.D., Goulden Papers, 7377/7/1, p. 14); Abbott, Police Casualties, 228-29. O’Brien was a Volunteer killed in the military pursuit after the ambush.

(175) Regan Memoir, 188-89.

(176) Shea, Voices, 43.

(177) Townshend, British Campaign, 202.

(178) V.H. Scott to J.R.W. Goulden, 21 Feb. 1968 (T.C.D., Goulden Papers, MS 7382a/68). Similar remarks by Terence McSwiney are to be found in Weekly Summary, 5 Nov. 1920 (reprinted from New York Sun, 22 Aug. 1920).

WILLIAM J. LOWE is Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Professor of History at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York. Among his publications are articles on the history of the Royal Irish Constabulary (R.I.C.) and The Irish in Mid- Victorian Lancashire: The Shaping of a Working-Class Community (1989). He is currently working on a career profile of the R.I.C. officer corps and a demographic study of the Black and Tans from 1920 to 1922.

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