The portrait appears in the book "Irishmen All" by George A Birmingham (T N Foulis 1913). Birmingham (whose real name was Rev James Owen Hannay) was active for a while on the executive of the Gaelic League. This book was a mildly satirical, and gently humorous, study on the main characters of an Irish provincial town. His depiction of the Irish policeman is brilliant and I offer some extracts here.....
'A horse fell in the street. It lay in the gutter with its head on the kerbstone of the foot-path. Everybody who was passing, either
up or down the street, stood to look at it. From the houses on each side, men, women, and children came out to see the sight. Very soon the footpath was
blocked by the crowd, and the circle of spectators filled half the road-way. From the barrack, which was at the end of the street, a policeman emerged. (One
naturally and properly uses a word of Latin derivation in describing the movements of an Irish policeman.) He strolled towards the scene of the disaster, and
when he got near enough to be heard without raising his voice, he spoke. "I wonder now," he said, in a quiet, meditative tone, "would it be any
use if I was to ask some of yees to move away out of that, so that the people of this town who happen to be wanting to do their legitimate business might be
able to get along the street without pushing against yees?"
'The people resolved his doubt for him. None of them moved away. The constable himself stood with them and added his advice to that which everybody else was giving to the owner of the horse. If anyone in the town had any legitimate business which required him to pass from one end of that street to the other, he either had to make a detour to avoid the crowd or postpone his business till the horse was on its feet again.'
'I like that way of dealing with people. It is polite, much more polite than the curt " Move on " of the London policeman. It shows a philosophic attitude of mind towards the law. There is, no doubt, a law in Ireland just as there is in England which forbids the blocking of thoroughfares to the inconvenience of passing people. But a law of that kind ought to be considered with due regard to the spirit which underlies all laws, the securing of the greatest good for the greatest number. The mere hide-bound official treats a law as a kind of divine thing to be enforced just because it is a law, against a whole community. The Irish policeman is a much more philosophic man. He considers before he attempts to enforce a law where the balance of convenience lies. If most of the people in any town want to get rapidly from one end of the street to the other, then the law against blocking the thoroughfare ought to be strictly enforced and loiterers should be made to move on. Any Irish policeman, once convinced that there were really considerable numbers of eager passengers, would enforce the law effectively. If, on the other hand, the majority of the people want to watch the struggles of a fallen horse, and only one or two men wish to move about.the Irish policeman sacrifices the few to the many, refusing to make a fetish of a wretched Act of Parliament.'
'I could give many examples of this fine philosophic spirit, which distinguishes the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary from the
police in any other part of the world. One more will perhaps be sufficient. There is a law that motor cars may not go about the roads at more than twenty miles
an hour. Compared to many other laws this is quite a good and sensible one. Most people do not own motor cars, and it is pleasant to think that the few who do
own them have their proud spirits chastened occasionally by severe fines. But there are times when the general public wants motor cars to go as fast as
possible. Any attempt to enforce the law about the speed limit on such occasions is clearly an inconvenient and irritating thing. No Irish policeman would be
guilty of it. Some years ago a famous race for motor cars was held on the roads near Dublin. An immense number of people went to see the race, and the traffic
on the way to the starting point was a good deal congested. Two police men were stationed at a rather awkward corner to control and regulate the traffic. They
had to deal with horse-drawn vehicles, bicycles, and motor cars. Most of the motor cars went round the corner at considerably more than twenty miles an hour.
The two policemen admired them greatly. At last a racing motor came along. It travelled very rapidly indeed, just touching the ground here and there with its
wheels, escaping collisions by the most fascinating hair's-breadths. "That fellow," said the eldest policeman, " is the best yet. "
'He understood the spirit of the modern state. Laws are not divine commands. They are the will of the majority; and it is ridiculous to insist that a majority should obey its own will when it does not want to ridiculous, because then it no longer is its will. The vast majority of those who go to see a motor race do so because they want to see motor cars travelling fast. No policeman who really understands the nature of law would dream of checking any motor on such an occasion. All Irish policemen understand the nature of law.'
'And their philosophy goes deeper than that. They understand natural law, the great fundamental instincts which govern human conduct,
just as well as they understand the rules which are made by men for their own convenience.
It is, for instance, not profit- able to grow apples in Ireland. The reason for this is that boys always steal them before they are ripe. The police make no attempt to stop Irish boys stealing apples. It is not certain that they could stop them, even if they tried ; though they do things which seem harder. But they do not try. They know that there is a law of nature which compels boys to steal apples. Being wise men, they refuse to spend energy and time in trying to thwart or check a deep-rooted instinct of this kind, just as they would refuse to try to stop water running downhill.'
and on the important subject of drinking......
'It is the duty of a constable to arrest particularly uproarious drunkards and to hale them before the seat of justice. But the
constable, being, in spite of regulations, at heart a man, knows how easy and pleasant a thing it is to get drunk, and how galling the fine is which the
magistrate imposes. He does not want to arrest drunkards. He will take a great deal of trouble to save a man from reaching the point at which he must be
arrested. He will, sometimes, follow a drunkard about the town, endeavouring at each stage of his malady to induce him to go home. He will, when all else
fails, soften as far as may be the evidence he gives in court next day. He will not, if he can help it, assert that the prisoner was actually drunk. He will
describe him, in a singularly felicitous phrase, as " having drink taken."