Royal Irish Constabulary

Not Forgotton



On 30 June 1922, a skirmish occurred at the Four Courts in Dublin. The anti-Treaty rebels seized control of the building. The newly formed Irish Free State government troops fired artillery shells at them which were, ironically, supplied by the British. Although the building was recaptured it signalled the start of a bitter civil war that drove a split between Irish families for years afterwards.  After an explosion a fire started in the building just after noon on that day, many priceless historical documents going back 700 years were destroyed including most of Ireland’s accumulated census data. 


The thought that valuable family records, going back centuries, lost for ever is frustrating to those who are researching their Irish `roots`. Used as barricades, these records went up in flames and their embers floated down the River Liffey in Dublin. To add even more frustration many records were also re-cycled because of paper shortages during the First World War. During 1922 R.I.C. documentation including policeman's personal files were destroyed as it was suggested that they should not be allowed to fall into the hands of the Free State and be used against individual men.


Only a short resumé of their service record remains. They cover the years from 1822 to 1922. They refer to 85,000 officers and men of an organisation that was discredited in a political process despite the fact they served their respective communities faithfully.  

History has repeated itself with the re-organisation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.  They both have become forgotten police forces.  Thankfully the records of the Royal Irish Constabulary (R.I.C.) are based at the constabulary RIC museum in Belfast. They are also  at Kew Gardens, Surrey, London. This means that the descendants of these men, some as far away as USA and Australia, can still research something of their ancestor’s police service record.  


That information gives a `snapshot` of life in Ireland and about the ordinary policemen who lived. Records of recruitment, training, postings, marriage, retirement dates and pensions can also be obtained. These are stored on microfiche. Records also exist of monthly reports that were sent to Dublin Castle.  Many from  Sergeants of the police barracks, situated in villages, in remote rural areas. In these records were reports of crimes and incidents that represented the social history of Ireland. Although there were turbulent times especially after the famine years, there was relative peace in the 1890`s when ordinary policing could be conducted.


The following is in the preface to the first edition of the Constabulary Manual of 1866.


I am indebted to Mr. Robert Fyffe of Fivemiletown who provided me with this quote:

`Let it be remembered that the repression of crime – its prevention if possible, its detection when committed – is a vocation than which there is none more honourable or useful; none more essential to the well-being of society; none more certain of securing, in the right discharge of its duties, the approbation of every right-minded person in the community."