by Cormac Ó Comhraí
reproduced by kind permission - Michael Guilfoyles RIC Facebook Group
In the case of the disbanded RIC men attacked in Ireland during the spring and summer of 1922, and beyond, we cannot assume that a specific attack on an ex-policeman was random just because attacks were widespread. Similarly we cannot assume anything about the past behaviour of an RIC man simply because he was attacked. A large number of ex-policemen were attacked, so large that it’s hard to believe that IRA intelligence was so competent and the IRA so well-organised as to be able to identify and attack only RIC men who had mistreated people. The numbers involved are so large that that explanation is distinctly implausible. Despite that the campaign should not be labelled a random campaign of violence against former policemen without significantly more research. We know very little about the campaign that was waged, we don’t know what level of organisation was involved in the attacks, who the specific attackers were, their level of authorisation, the reasons why individuals were selected and the objectives of the attackers. For example, in Spiddal members of the pro-Treaty Free State army, rather than the IRA, were accused of an attack on the home of an ex-policeman. Because of the dangers of assumptions we must, therefore, focus on what we do know. This essay is an attempt to add, in a small way at least, to our understanding of events during that time. The two main sources used are the contemprary newspaper reports and also the Irish Grants Committee`s investigation into the suffering of loyalists between 1921-23. Disbanded RIC men were not covered under the terms of the committee`s work but occassionally received compensation if it was felt that they were a special case. This did not stop a number of RIC men applying to the Committee. A number of Galway or Galway-based RIC men or their families applied for compensation. Many of them were refused on the basis that they had already been financially compensated by the British government for the hardship caused by the disbandment of the RIC. Two of the Galway claims were felt to be at least partially dishonest: “I am convinced that his late wife did not own a business in Ireland” and “There is no reference in previous papers to the alleged incident upon which the claim for personal injury is based.” In that case the other applications are probably honest representations of events allowing for mistakes or bias.
We can safely say that there was a poor relationship in Galway between the RIC and republicans in the years before the struggle for independence, 1919-1921. Aside from ideological differences long-term republicans felt that members of the RIC behaved in an unecessarily violent and petty way while also failing to apply the law impartially in the decade before the War of Independence. This did not mean that republicans did not differentiate between the behaviour of different members of the force. Individual members were respected and sometimes even popular among republicans. The potential for wanting to settle real and imaginary grievances existed, therefore, long before 1920. Another source of friction between the local population and the RIC was land agitation. This alienated large sections of the population from the police. Whether or not this alienation was permanent is another question but it did lead to an intense hatred of the police at certain times and in certain places. Despite the hostility the force was an attractive source of employment for young men in the west and twenty seven Galwegians were among those RIC men, both old RIC and recent recruits, killed during the 1919-1922 period.
From 1916 on and escalating from 1919 republicans actively sought to alienate the community and the RIC from each other. In a county like Galway, with its tradition of agrarian agitation and strong support for republicanism, this was not difficult. By the end of 1919 the local RIC were becoming increasingly demoralised. The situation worsened during the first half of 1920 rather than improving. The military conflict, already intense in Munster, had come to Galway with four protracted attacks on Barracks and a number of ambushes by July 1920. By the summer of 1920 RIC were reacting in five ways to the pressure they were under: they resigned, stayed in the force and helped the republican movement, stayed in but tried to avoid trouble of any kind, remained in the force but tried to uphold the law, remained in the force but abandoned the law. From the summer of 1920 on Government forces went on the offensive using methods both legal and illegal in order to counteract republicans. It was a time of promotion for ambitious officers, while less agressive or committed officers were sidelined or transferred to quieter areas. In Galway violence, by crown forces, against both republicans and the general community escalated while republican resistance effectively collapsed. The violence carried out by Crown Forces should not be considered solely reprisals carried out in the aftermath of IRA attacks nor as a result of the behaviour of Black and Tans, the nickname assigned to British born recruits to the RIC. Native born RIC men, almost all of them Catholics and so persumably from a nationalist background, were implicated in a large proportion of the shootings of people in and from Galway.
In the summer of 1921 a Truce was agreed. It was clearly recognised by republicans that during the Truce period some sort of protection was needed by policemen who were planning to return home. In December a treaty was signed and by the spring of 1922 British forces were withdrawing and handing over their barracks to pro and anti-treaty units all over the south. By the early summer large numbers of former RIC men were returning home. It was at this point that there was an explosion of attacks in county Galway, mostly in the east of the county, on ex-RIC men. A number of RIC men were ordered of the Gort area. Interestingly enough there seems to have been a cluster of attacks around Athenry, Ballinasloe and Portumna. These last three areas, particularly Ballinasloe and Portumna, had seen little activity by the IRA during the 1919-1921 period and consequently less violence by the Crown Forces against republicans or the community (though it did exist). This previous lack of military activity may or may not have not been signficant. There are four logical explanations why there may be a correlation between lack of activity during the War of Independence and the attacks on ex-policemen. Firstly it`s possible that ex-policemen were less inclined to return to areas where the IRA had been active. Secondly, perhaps the IRA in the less active areas decided to take action against a force that had effectively had free reign in their areas during the previous years. Thirdly, it`s possible that the battle-hardened IRA men were more disciplined. Fourthly, with the Treaty split perhaps it was a question of a new generation of leadership and activists in the republican movement gaining access to positions of power and weapons. It certainly seems to have been the case in Ballinasloe where Jack Keogh was to become the dominant figure in the IRA locally after the War of Independence. He had been imprisoned during the campaign against British rule, but was was not a particularly signficant figure at the time of his arrest. He came to the forefront of the local IRA after the split. Keogh was to prove himself an active and determined guerrilla and a committed republican. He also seemed to have felt a particular animosity towards policemen in either its past or its current incarations. An ex-RIC man was amongst those targeted by Keogh but more significantly members of An Garda Síochána and their barracks were also attacked. Rather than being a series of mindless acts of vandalism Keogh firmly believed that he was fighting for a republic and did not seek to hide his involvement: "You can tell the military that Keogh and Larkin are responsible for the burning, and there is no need to go raiding for anyone else." He told one of the guards: "Why didn't you stick to what you were. WHY DID YE LET DOWN THE REPUBLIC?” (sic)It is also notable that in an area where there had been sectarian tensions over the years, tensions which exploded on a couple of occasions in the recent past, that there was no evidence of sectarianism in the choice of victims in Keogh`s campaign of violence. Keogh also seems to have been aware of the danger posed by a lack of policing in the countryside disrupting two groups of thieves, ordering one man out of the country.
There was a very noticeable different level of violence or intimidation applied to the individual RIC men. Whether this level was determined by who the ex-RIC man was or who was in charge of the attackers is unclear. The Connacht Tribune 10 June 1922 reports on raids on a large number of policemen in the general Ballinasloe area. Among those attacked were constables Tapley and Scanlon (both shot and wounded) and ex-sergeant Morris in Eyrecourt (who had been stationed locally and was badly beaten). On the other hand, in the case of an ex-Constable Kelleher in Ballinasloe: “One of the raiders, it is said, struck him on the chest, but the man who appeared to be in command cautioned him not to attempt to do that again.” In the case of the Kemp family, whose father was an RIC man, the house was searched for arms but no damage was done and the behaviour of the raiders was non-threatening. The Kemps were Protestant and the raiders may have been trying to ensure that it was not felt that that the raid was motivated by sectarianism or a desire to force that particular family to leave as there was sectarian trouble in the area at the time. For some such as James Casey in Clifden threats were enough to induce them to leave. He approached the local republican commandant who confirmed the order to leave whereupon Casey decided that discretion was the better part of valour. All this affected more than the ex-RIC men themselves, of course. Families of ex-RIC men naturally got caught up in the campaign against their spouses and fathers. In Oughterard the family of James F. Moore were “subject to bad treatment, for example.”
It was natural that at least some of those targeted would have involved themselves in anti-republican or anti-communal violence in the years before or were unwilling to yield to republican pressure. This was the case of Michael Fitzgerald in the Ballinasloe area. By his own admission Fitzgerald had taken part in reprisals and had foiled a raid by republicans on the Ballinasloe RIC Barracks in 1922. He received no help from his fellow policeman in his efforts against the raiders. As a result of his efforts he ended up leaving the country.  In Athenry the home of Joseph Beatty was fired into. He had been stationed in the area for two decades and retired from the force at the end of June 1921. The reason for the attack on Beatty was: “having a good local knowledge accompanying the military making arrests and searching for arms. Giving evidence at military court marshals (sic) etc.” The most serious case of ex-RIC men in Galway being targeted occurred in March 1922 when three ex-RIC men and a civilian were shot in a hospital in Galway city. Two of them were killed outright, along with a Mayo civilian who had earlier been a target in his native area. The dead men were Sergeant John Gilmartin, Sergeant Tobias Gibbons and Patrick Cassidy. The third RIC man, Constable Patrick McGloin, was left permanently close to death. These men were all Catholic and all of them were westerners. It is extremely unlikely that anybody other than republicans were involved in the shootings. Gilmartin had been accused of involvement in the whipping and humiliation of people in Moycullen by the Auxiliaries in the autumn of 1920. Gibbons was promoted to sergeant in the aftermath of the extensive reprisals carried out by British forces in Tuam and a Sergeant J. Gibbons was named in a republican intelligence document as being involved in “The Sack of Tuam”. This may or may not refer to the same person. The wounded man, Constable Patrick McGloin, had previously received a threatening letter because his police work: “McGloin, we know you are a British Spy and Informer. Give it up at once or your days are numbered. Final Notice.”There was always the danger, however, that republicans would be wrong about who was actually involved in the British campaign against republicans. Sergeant William Leech from Williamstown who served in the RIC in Limerick was suspected by republicans there of involvement in murder and was shot dead in Dublin during the Truce. Looking at the evidence now available the case against Leech looks significantly weaker than republicans thought.
Aside from being ex-RIC men there are possibly other reasons why individual ex-RIC men might have been attacked. Land agitation may have been part of the reason why some RIC men were attacked. There may have been a policy among landlords of giving employment to ex-RIC men either for reasons of their service to the crown or for reasons of security. Ex-policeman Michael Ryan, whose sons joined the RIC in 1920 and in 1921, was attacked. He was working on a landlord`s estate at the time. Matthew O’Byrne White, an ex-District Inspector, who was working for another landlord was ordered out. In another case an ex-RIC man was taking care of one of his brother’s farms.  Bernard Conway`s house in Ahascragh was bombed and fired into. He had taken land in order to set himself up as a grazier.In an era of violence directed against cattle graziers and large landowners people employed by them were always likely to be attacked, regardless of previous service in the RIC. Again, historians must be careful of assigning blame to the IRA or republican supporters for actions during land disputes. Almost nobody was immune from being a target. 1916 veteran Gilbert Ryan, whose house had been burned by the Crown Forces in 1920, was shot and wounded in an agrarian incident in May 1922. His dog and donkey were killed in the same incident. 
Some RIC men eventually returned to Ireland. Some seem to have left permanently. Some of them, at least, were likely to have remained strongly pro-British. John Lavelle who worked for the Auxiliaries in Galway city wrote: “I was and still am loyal to the British Crown.” Others must have become embittered by the events of the previous years. Michael Fitzgerald who prevented the IRA from seizing Ballinasloe barracks angrily wrote about the incident: ‘You may wonder what they (the other policemen) were doing - well so do I, but I do know that most of them are living snugly in Ireland at the present time.’Finally, to finish with an exception, not all ex-RIC men were anti-republican. Thomas Beegan, a Ballinasloe native who had been a Black and Tan, was arrested in October having taken the republican side in the Civil War.
 Timothy Murhill (TNA:PRO CO 762/50).
John Raftery TNA:PRO CO 762/202
 Timothy Murhill (TNA: PRO TNA:PRO CO 762/50).
 See for example Thomas Courtney Bureau of Military History Witness Statement 447, p.2 (henceforth WS); Michael Newell WS 342, p.2; Stephen Jordan WS 346, p.1.
 See for example James Haverty lch.52. (“Memoirs of an Ordinary Republican” CD 72 Military Archives); Daniel Ryan WS 1007, p.9; McMahon, T., Pádraig Ó Fathaigh`s War of Independence (Cork 2000), pp.63, 74
Based on the research of Richard Abbott in Police Casualties in Ireland 1919-1922 (Mercier Press 2000).
 See, for example, the comments of one senior policeman in G. Plunkett Dillon, All in the Blood (Dublin 2006), pp. 281-2.
 The most prominent local case of that was Divisional Commissioner Richard Cruise who achieved almost legendary status among local republicans but there were others.
 See the cases of ex-policemen Patrick Cahill in Cork and Patrick O`Donnell in Kerry. They were asked to “produce a reference” to show that they had behaved well from the IRA in the areas in which they had served. (TNA:PRO CO 762/118).
 Connacht Tribune, 17 June 1922.
 The word seems is extremely important here. Little research has been carried out on this period either locally or nationally.
 Connacht Tribune, 17 June 1922.
 Connacht Tribune, 10 June 1922.
 See the Irish Grant Committee applications, amongst others, of Denis Doherty TNA: PRO CO 762/165; David Hishon TNA: PRO CO 762/98; William Cotter TNA: PRO CO 762/71.
 As late as September 1923 Keogh`s group shot and wounded an ex-RIC man.
East Galway Democrat 10 and 17 May 1924. Articles from the paper are available on http://www.ballinasloe.org/articles/article.php?ID=16.
 T. MacLochlainn, Ballinasloe Indiu agus Inné: The story of a community of over the past 200 years (No place or date of publication), p.156.
 Connacht Tribune 10 June 1922.
 James Casey TNA:PRO CO 762/199.
 James F. Moore TNA:PRO CO 762/65.
 Michael Fitzgerald (TNA: PRO TNA:PRO CO 762/26).
 Joseph Beatty TNA: PRO TNA:PRO CO 762/19.
 Connacht Tribune, 18 March 1922. For information about their suspected involvement see List of RIC men from West Mayo: Report 5 January1922 (P17(a)/10 Ernie O’Malley Papers, UCDA); Patrick Moylett WS 767, p. 17. For Gibbons promotion see TNA: PRO HO 184/31. The sack of Tuam occurred on the night of 19/20 July 1920. Gibbons was promoted on 1 August.
 Connacht Tribune 10 Bealtaine 1920.
 Toomey, T., The War of Independence in Limerick 1912-1921 (Thomas Toomey 2010), p.552.
 Michael Ryan (TNA:PRO CO 762/39).
 Matthew O`Byrne White (TNA: PRO CO 762/110)
 William Horan (TNA:PRO CO 762/118).
 Bernard Conway (TNA:PRO CO 762/26).
 Tuam Herald 27 May 1922.
 John Lavelle (TNA: PRO CO 762/194).
 Michael Fitzgerald (TNA: PRO TNA:PRO CO 762/26).
 Connacht Tribune 14 October 1922.