Due credit for the positive contributions' this fine police force made in Ireland-especially in Victorian times- has not always been recognised. This was due to events overshadowing their history including the War of Independence.
However, opinion is changing following the excellent and inspiring work of Séamus Breathnach, Jim Herlihy, ex-Chief Superintendent Donal J. O`Sullivan, Professor Elizabeth Malcolm and Richard Abbott. More recently there has been a need to research the service records of the officers and men of the old R.I.C., by sympathetic descendants. We all share a pride and a desire to put right an injustice where the R.I.C. have been written out of history.
Sean O`Sullivan researched, as part of his degree: `Marriage and the R.I.C. from 1850 to 1900.` He sent me a copy in 2000, of his research, for which I was very grateful. All the members of the old Royal Irish Constabulary have now passed on and as their descendants we have nothing to be ashamed of. Their very existence, and duties, were closely intertwined in a momentous century in the country’s social history. We, as their descendants, are proud of them. We honour their memory by wanting to tell their stories.
Many thanks must go to Richard Fitzgerald for his kind permission to use this iconic image below. It includes his Great-Grandfather William Cooke.
The men who filled the rank and file, were mainly sons of farmers, strong and honest individuals, who fulfilled an important social and administrative role. In the community, individual policemen were popular and respected. They were the administrators of the 1901 and 1911 Irish Census which is now freely available on the internet. The men residing in the barracks' throughout Ireland in 1901 & 1911 are also registered on the Census.
In the history of the R.I.C. there were not always troubles times, as in the 1890s, the constabulary settled down to a relative peaceful policing of the country but no one was to know how Ireland would change violently after 1916. Ironically the R.I.C. thought through their intelligence system (it was reported years later) that the insurrection would occur in 1915.
You can buy a copy of my ebook for a Kindle from Amazon.co.uk. Click on the link below. The image is from a postcard in my police collection.
The `Wind that Shakes the Barley` is an excellent film which I enjoyed However, the film did not show the events of the killing of ordinary policemen - going about their routine duties - before the arrival of the hated "Black and Tans."
Michael Collins knew that to achieve independence he would have to mastermind the break- up of the R.I.C. He said they were more than a threat to him than the British Army and that was because of their intelligence network. Ironically when the Free State was formed, Collins used the `template` of the Royal Irish Constabulary to form a new police force called `Civic Guard` who soon became An Garda Síochána (Irish for Guardian’s of the Peace.)
You can buy a copy of my ebook for a Kindle from Amazon.co.uk.
There are plenty of publications about how the constabulary was discredited so this website is part of a modern movement with a sympathetic view. It is based on research of my County Kerry family, especially an ancestor, my Great-Grand Uncle, James Talbot who joined the R.I.C. in 1890 and retired as a sergeant in 1915. I have copies of letters that colleagues wrote to him which helped me as I travelled extensively around Wexford to conduct my research on him, He was posted to: Blackwater, Ballywilliam, Gorey, New Ross, Duncannon and Enniscorthy. In 1915 he retired to live in Ballymurn. He is now buried under a fine limestone Celtic cross near the village.
Details of an historical letter were forwarded to the `News Magazine of the Police Federation for
It seems the Royal Irish Constabulary representative body had taken legal advice from Kings Council: A M Sullivan. He was sent a gift (although it is not known what it was) as the R.I.C. faced disbandment in 1922. Mr. Sullivan was the last Sergeant at Law in
His reply in a letter which sums up feelings at that time by many to the RIC read:
The Secretary, Representative Body
I was most deeply touch today with the unexpected gift received from the officers and men of the Royal Irish Constabulary. It is a tribute of which every true Irishman might well be proud, although it brings with it the sorrowful reflection that the gallant force which served Ireland and her people so long and so devotedly can no longer protect their Country against the bully and the brute, to whom have been betrayed the remnants of all what we desired to be the Irish nation. Hard as is the fate of all of us who struggled to keep clean the honour of our race, and who have now to earn our bread amongst strangers, our lot will be easier than the lives of those who were too false and too cowardly to sustain the Irish Civil Power in its battle against Paganism and who now purchase permission to exist in what was once Ireland, only be cringing submission to a degrading tyranny of crime.
As we believe in the ultimate justice of Providence, so must we believe that those who risked their lives as did the R.I.C. to protect the lives and liberties of a people now left forgotten, and however dark may be the days in which they are dissolving their old comradeship in Ireland, they will find peace and happiness in the memory of having done right.
With heartfelt gratitude for their appreciation of my friendship, believe me.
AM Sullivan, KC