Churchill urged to save disbanded RIC from death (1922)

A century ago this month the News Letter reported that a petition had been handed to Mr Winston Churchill, on behalf for a large number of members of the disbanded RIC.

The petition read: “Sir, We, the disbanded members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, most respectfully wait on you, having been assured you will surely come to our help in our great present and urgent need. We appeal to you to give us: 1, Empty camps or barracks or empty aerodromes. 2, Protection from our disbandment places till we can get on board the steamboats.”

The petition continued: “At present we have to go out disarmed, and we are set upon and searched, our money is taken, and each man is identified by his discharge certificates, given to him with his pay on disbandment. The wanted RIC, when found, having been already court-martialled by the IRA, are dragged off and murdered at once, and many of them have also suffered unmentionable outrages. The reasons for the execution of these men is only that they obeyed most faithfully the orders given by the British Government. We earnestly appeal to you to give us now, large empty quarters for ourselves and our families.”

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It added: “We have been warned out of Ireland. Every county in Munster, Leinster, and Connaught, is placarded that all the RIC are to be shot at sight if they return. Our wives and families, likewise, are being ordered to leave. Some are turned out with no warning, and the house and all its contents burnt on the spot. Others get a few hours or longer. A great deal of luggage, has been burnt, and many of our comrades have already been murdered. But not a murder is allowed to be published now in any Irish paper. We know them, however, from private sources. We are seized in the streets, dragged out from our houses or from the boats, unless British soldiers happen to be leaving by the boats also.”

A group of RIC men pictured circa 1914. Picture: News Letter archives

The petition concluded: “We appeal to you most earnestly to give us the many large quarters standing empty. We want to emigrate, but we want time to arrange for this.

“We have to flee from Ireland, but we have nowhere to go and do not know where to turn. You alone can help us. We saw your speech in which you said if the RIC wanted the large empty camps you would consider giving them to us. We urgently need them now, at once, for ourselves and our homeless wives and children, and we need protection for all. Many men are being disbanded today, and a wire from you to Ireland would save many lives and untold misery.”