University of Limerick
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Divided loyalties: the Royal Irish Constabulary in county Tipperary, 1919-1922

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posted on 2023-02-20, 12:49 authored by John Reynolds
The period from 1913 to 1921 in Ireland saw the rise of militant nationalism, the 1916 Rising, the Anglo-Irish conflict and the Civil War. Integral to these events were the men of the Royal Irish Constabulary. The force had already policed Ireland for over a century when the IRA campaign against it began in January 1919 with the Soloheadbeg ambush. During that time the RIC had evolved into an indigenous civil police force which routinely patrolled without arms. Between 1919 and 1922, 493 members of the RIC were killed and hundreds more injured as the force bore the brunt of the IRA campaign. Forty six policemen died in county Tipperary alone, making it one of most violent counties in Ireland, within the most violent province, Munster. When the conflict ended, the RIC was completely disbanded at its own insistence, and thousands of former policemen faced uncertain futures. Many chose assisted emigration while others opted to remain in Ireland, living in relative anonymity. Nationalist historiography has been overwhelmingly negative about the RIC, portraying the force as the ‘eyes and ears of Dublin Castle’, an oppressive colonial police force subjugating the citizens of Ireland. Atrocities were committed by both sides however, and the grim reality of the conflict frequently differed from the heroic struggle for self-determination subsequently portrayed in historiography.This work is a detailed study of the Royal Irish Constabulary in Tipperary from 1919 to 1922. The IRA operation directed against the police in that county resulted in the deaths of forty-six policemen, the wounding of many more and the destruction of, or abandonment of dozens of barracks. It is intended in this study that the RIC will be placed in an appropriate historical context as a force comprised primarily of indigenous Irishmen who found themselves in an almost impossible position when the conflict began. Given the critical importance of the RIC in Irish history of this period, it is intended that this work will appreciably add to the historiography of the topic. By contrasting the perception of the RIC against the reality of the guerrilla campaign waged against them, this thesis will critically assess the role of the RIC in Tipperary during this time, and examine the experiences of ordinary members of the constabulary.



  • Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Logan, John





Department or School

  • History

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