R.I.C. Dismissals and Resignations during the Revolutionary Period

This exhibition shines a light on material held in the M.I.P.R. collection (Military Intelligence and Press Analysis - Civil War) and Colonel Thomas Gay’s private collection (view a short biography of Colonel Gay here) connected to the subject of R.I.C. dismissals and resignations during the revolutionary period. The assembled documentation adds a layer of complexity to perceptions of loyalty, patriotism and participation in consideration of the War of Independence years.

The Committee established to enquire into resignations and dismissals from the Royal Irish Constabulary (R.I.C.) was appointed on the 28th November 1922 by Mr Kevin O’Higgins T.D. Minister of Home Affairs and consisted of two groups of nominees. Mr Batt O’Connor (Chairman) Mr W. McCracken, Mr W. Doolin and Commandant General T. Cullen were nominated by the Government while Mr M. J. Lyons, Mr M. O’Mahony and Mr J.M. McLaughlin (Secretary) were nominated by the resigned and dismissed policemen. The position held by a Military representative changed hands a number of times with Commandant General T. Cullen resigning on 7th of February, 1923, and his replacement, Colonel Commandant F. Saurin resigning on 28th of March 1923. Saurin was replaced by Captain T. Gay on the 28th of March 1923 who served on the committee until proceedings concluded.

The appointed committee were required to “enquire into the cases of men who resigned or were dismissed from the Royal Irish Constabulary, during the period 21st January, 1919, to 11th July, 1921, and to report to the government those cases in which it considers that the resignations and dismissals were caused by the national sympathies of the resigned and dismissed men”.

The "Interim Report" of the committee dated 20th April 1923 (view here) held in the M.I.P.R. collection provides an insight into the inner workings of the committee, and the workload involved. The secretary reported that 41 meetings of the Committee were held and 1094 applications were received, including applications from the United States of America, Australia, Canada and South Africa. Further, 414 cases were disallowed and 492 cases approved.

The M.I.P.R. collection includes application forms (Form C.C.R. F.1.) submitted by one hundred applicants (view index to claimants here). Given the genesis of the M.I.P.R. collection (Department of Intelligence), the 100 cases could possibly represent the cases reviewed by the military representatives on the committee. It should be noted that the private collection of committee member, Colonel Thomas Gay contains application forms (Form C.C.R. F.1.) and related correspondence regarding a number of cases. MIPR_03_13 also contains correspondence between Intelligence and the committee on various cases, minutes of meetings held (incomplete set) and related newspaper cuttings on the subject of R.I.C. resignations and dismissals.

The one hundred application forms contained in the M.I.P.R. collection are interesting in their own right (view the application forms here] and detail a wide range of reasons why men of the R.I.C. resigned or were dismissed. In almost all cases, the resignation revolved around sympathy, which had been expressed in various ways, with the national cause. In the very few cases where dismissal is cited, the reason given was the doubted loyalty of the individual to the R.I.C.

IE_MA_BMH_CD_284_02_08 Committee into Resignations and Dismissals from the Royal Irish Constabulary.
IE_MA_BMH_CD_284_02_08 Committee into Resignations and Dismissals from the Royal Irish Constabulary.

Procedure and Representation

The organisation of the resigned and dismissed members of the Royal Irish Constabulary was represented on the committee by Messrs O’Mahoney and Lyons, who had obtained from each of its members a statement on Form C.C.R. F.1. The form contained details of the facts relating to each case, and this preliminary information was placed at the disposal of the committee forming the basis for their subsequent investigations. A very interesting case is the application submitted by Constable John Synnott connected to his service in Newtownsandes, Listowel, Co. Kerry and his resignation in June 1920. His application details how he and a number of constables resigned because they refused to cooperate with an incoming troop of Black and Tans to the area. Synnott recalled how in the aftermath of their protestations, Colonel Smyth, Divisional Commissioner for police in Munster visited the barracks. Synnott recalled how he and thirteen others were paraded and Smyth delivered a “notorious speech”, defining in detail the policy of the Black and Tans. Synnott’s statement further details the subsequent action taken by him and the constables in informing other stations in the district about Smyth’s address and in particular, Smyth’s rough treatment of their spokesperson, Constable Mee. Synnott also claimed that he and the constables published a copy of Smyth’s speech in newspapers and copies were sent to nearly every member of the House of Commons.

Thomas Gay Private Collection: Synott Application Form
Thomas Gay Private Collection: Synott Application Form

The Interim Report

In the interim report, the committee considered it necessary to draw attention to the difficulties experienced by them in discharging their duties. It was noted that the passage of time was not favourable, nor was the wartime situation as applicants may have been wary of entrusting detailed information by post. The committee also added they could not gather conclusive evidence as it was not possible to personally interview each applicant. Additionally, they did not have access to official records of the R.I.C., which were unavailable for inspection, nor did applicants have access to their own records of service. The committee noted that it had received the greatest possible assistance from General E. O’Duffy, Commissioner of the Civic Guard, in regard to cases of members of his force and cases of applicants from districts within his knowledge in the Six County area.
Given the difficulties of gathering applicable information, the Committee gave due consideration to the following factors: -
(a) Length of service in the R.I.C., giving more relevance to those of long service and attaching little weight to those with short service that may have indicated that he was not suitable to the vocation.
(b) Date of resignation, attaching less weight to those that were submitted at a date subsequent to April, 1921.
(c) Special sacrifice made by married men in submitting their resignation.
(d) Proved receipt of a circular from Sinn Féin clubs calling for resignation and promising alternative employment.
(e) Proved service to the national cause either prior to, or subsequent to, their resignation.
(f) The historic sequence of events in the late war with special reference to the particular locality in which resignation or dismissal took place.
(g) The possibility that the resignation was based on consideration not connected with the course of public events such as, transfer from a quiet area to a more troublesome area, resignation on marriage, succession to property, resignation on medical grounds, resignation to a better position in life.

In many cases consideration given to the criteria referenced above allowed little doubt by the Committee that it was justified in either definitely approving or disapproving cases.
The Report indicated that 492 cases whereby men had resigned or were dismissed because of the national sympathies of the men had been forwarded to the Government for consideration. These cases are detailed in Appendix 1 of the report. Footnotes were used to identify cases whereby, at the time of investigation, the applicant was either serving in the National Army, Civic Guard, resident in Northern Ireland or Great Britain, or had R.I.C. service linked to the Six County area.

At the time of publishing the report, the Committee reserved for further consideration a number of special cases and 188 cases where applications were received too late for inclusion in the interim report or where applicants were at present resident in the U.S.A. or the British Colonies and it was not practicable at this stage to commence investigation.

Sergeant Rawley, R.I.C. from I.R.A. Intelligence Scrapbook, IE_MA_BMH_CD_227_35
Sergeant Rawley, R.I.C. from I.R.A. Intelligence Scrapbook, IE_MA_BMH_CD_227_35


The committee which was set up to investigate claims made by ex. R.I.C. men, set in motion a number of legislative protections for men who had lost incomes and pensions as a result of their action during the War of Independence.
The Superannuation and Pensions Act, 1923 was an Act which made provision for the superannuation of and payment of pensions, allowances and gratuities to, or in respect of, certain persons in the service of Saorstát Éireann, and to authorise the payment of pensions, allowances, and gratuities to certain former members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. The Royal Irish Constabulary (Resigned and Dismissed) Pensions order 1924 Statutory Rules and Orders. 1924. No. 9, was an Order by the Minister for Finance dated 10th January 1924 made in pursuance of Section 5 (1) of the Superannuation and Pensions Act, 1923, authorising the grant of pensions, etc. to certain persons who resigned or were dismissed from the Royal Irish Constabulary on or after the first day of April 1916, and before the sixth day of December, 1921, and whose resignations or dismissals from that Force were certified under the hands of the Ministers for Home affairs and Finance to have been caused by their national sympathies.

More Information

For a partial history of the Constabulary in the 19th century (written by a County Inspector named Robert Curtis, in 1871) please view the resource from the "Irish Family History Centre".