We felt we could not let a recent controversy pass without comment. In case anyone missed it, the debacle involved the Irish government’s plan for a formal State event marking two former arms of the crown forces in Ireland. It was to have been held on Friday, 17 January, at Dublin Castle.
Whatever about opinions on that idea, one fact is certain. Since over 80,000 served in the RIC and DMP during their existence, there is a large number of descendants alive today (One of your regular writers is one and, by the way, was gobsmacked at the government’s proposal).
But of more relevance, many members of the Old IRA and the Custom House Fire Brigade were also numbered among the sons of policemen.
Of them, Tom Barry is probably the most well-known. To some ‘purists’ he may deserve a second black mark against him for being a former British Army soldier in WW1! Yet his republican fame and legacy have survived and surpassed all that. And why not? As the old saying goes – the sins of the father should not be visited upon the son…. Isn’t it better to remember someone for their own deeds, not their origins.
Of the Custom House Men, six were sons of RIC and three had DMP fathers – one of whom also had an RIC father-in-law.
Jack Doyle – his father Patrick (1861-1936), a Kerryman, was RIC Constable 49849 who served from 1882-1916.
Joe Gilhooly – his dad Myles, born in Co Leitrim 1865, served as a Constable, then Sergeant 51316 from 1885 to his death from TB at Dr. Steeven’s Hospital, Dublin in 1912.
Jim Heery (article coming soon) – his father John (1859-1934) from Co Cavan was in the RC from 1878 to 1905 as Constable 43750. After retiring he was Postmaster in Garristown, north Co. Dublin.
Thomas Kilmurry – son of Patrick (1853-1928), RIC Constable no. 38872 came from Co. Kildare. He was pensioned in 1909 after 37 years service.
Charlie McCabe – his father James (1859-1913 from Aldershot, England with Co. Monaghan roots) joined as RIC no. 46034 in 1880. He served as a mounted policeman for two periods before being pensioned in 1906 and dying in Manchester, England.
Jack Young – named after his dad, John (1869-1951) DMP warrant no. 9763, a Constable, later Sergeant from Lavey, Co. Derry. Pensioned in 1926. He had sold tea before joining the police.
Tom Flood – one of many IRA sons of DMP man John Joseph (1859-1938, from Howth Co, Dublin), warrant no. 8639, pensioned 1911. Frank was executed in 1921. Sean died young after maltreatment in north of Ireland & Scottish jails. Alfie went on to become a Garda Assistant Commissioner. Tom himself later married Peg Mullane, whose late father Denis (1858-1923) from Co Limerick had been RIC man 44948 (pensioned in 1905 after 26 years).
Myles Doody – a son of DMP man John (born 1851) who had been a police pensioner for 6 years when Myles was born in 1902. Originally from Rathvilly, Co Wicklow, John held warrant no. 7498. He died at his home, 16 Ballybough Road, in 1908 at the age of 48.
Maybe we can conclude at least some RIC and DMP families left a good legacy in Ireland’s history.
The choice of the Castle for the government’s event was insensitive. The location for crown police atrocities like the murders of IRA men Dick McKee, Peadar Clancy and the innocent Conor Clune in 1920. In 1921, the savage beating of 18 Custom House Men in custody took place there.
Finally, the controversy has proved some fears correct. There will undoubtedly be further bitter rows as more divisive centenary events come to be commemorated in the next few years.
The Custom House Commemoration Group fully intends to stand above all that and maintain its guiding principles – non-political, truthful and independent. Long-standing member and Facebook page admin, Aishling Flynn recently posted this timely reminder:
“We are not here to flare tempers over the rights and wrongs of Civil War, the Treaty or any political discussions or sides. This is not our aim. We are here as a memorial group, to share stories, to learn and to remember the men and women of our families who took part in this event. Please have respect for all members. As a group, we have acknowledged all persons involved and I want to retain our discretion. So please be mindful of posts and keep our lovely little group the way we have always been. Thanks so much to everyone who has shared their stories. Looking forward to this coming May and especially May 2021 ……”.