Hello, hello,

While researching my family history, I came upon the term RIC and was so graciously told that it stands for Royal Irish Constabulary. I found that my great uncle Con Shea had moved from Kenmare, Co. Kerry to Co. Clare to enlist (if that is the correct term). I've slightly touched upon what the RIC is, and wondering if there is anyone familiar with this that can shed more light. My biggest confusion comes in where I have read that the RIC were more of a military company, and they may not have been looked upon too nicely. My great uncle was catholic, were ALL RIC Catholic? Did they take a side in the conflict?

Thanks for any insight you may have!

Tags: Constabulary, Irish, Republican, Royal

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Hello Lisa,

The Irish Constabulary earned or included the name 'Royal' after they infiltrated the intended rebellion of 1867, which was then aborted. Their new title was conferred on them via Queen Victoria. Sir Robert Peel was the founder of the Constabulary in both Britain and Ireland. In England the 'Bobby' is an affectionate term taken from his Christian name. In Ireland the 'Peeler' is a less affectionate name for the police which was taken from his surname.

The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) is a complicated story in Ireland's history. They were not policing by consent. About 90% were Catholic and from farming background, who had to be vouched for by either a big farmer or a District Justice. Promotions to higher ranks were 90% and disproportionately Protestant. You are correct in that the RIC were a paramilitary force and armed with rifles, distinct from the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) who were unarmed.

When the War of Independence of 1919 to 1922 started after the 1916 Rebellion, it was confirmed the RIC were the primary intelligence gatherers for the British government through Dublin Castle. So different and more serious warnings were communicated to RIC members that  their cooperation with British Government and their agents, the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries, was an attack on the Irish people. These notorious paramilitary bodies were drafted in as an aid to the Civil Authorities ie the RIC. There were mass resignations particularly from the younger members.Some Catholic RIC members resigned and even enlisted in the ranks of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The RIC were very aggressive particularly in the Cork region and involved in murder and arson. The response of the Irish was to burn 315 outlying RIC stations in one night as a message to Britain.  Many RIC who decided to remain on because of the threat they would lose their hard earned pensions if they resigned, were shot dead or seriously injured.

In 1922 or soon after the Garda Siochána was set up as the legitimate and only law enforcement agency in the 26 counties. These were difficult times of severe lawlessness in our fledgling state. The decision that this Force would be an unarmed one proved to be a winning strategy, even though some unarmed Gardai were shot in those early days. Some ex RIC men enlisted but because of their history and suspect allegiances were not made very welcome, as many of the new force were drawn from Irish patriotic backgrounds.

Ireland is still a country with an unarmed police force and has the support of the public, but the increasing lawlessness of drug barons and tit for tat killings and feuding is asking some hard questions as to the policy of being unarmed in the face of such crime.

Kenmare was largely the estate of the disliked Lord Lansdowne and his agent Steuart Trench. A good read for you would be 'The Lansdowne Estate in Kerry' by Gerard J Lyne.

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