In 1875, a woman, called O’Brien, was arrested for up beating a Royal Irish Constabulary police officer after accosting another police officer on the street. All but one of the jury were convinced of her guilt. This juror queried the fact that the police officer was not able to identify the woman as the person who attacked him. The Dublin Daily Express states that the presiding judge, Judge Keogh, responded ‘Neither could you if your eye was full of blood’. The juror refused to convict the woman and the judge dismissed the jury, calling a mistrial.

On retrial, the jury found O’Brien guilty. Judge Keogh sentenced her to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour. The judge also later directed that the unconvinced juror from the first trial should ‘never be summoned to sit on a jury again’.

The Dublin Daily Express was a unionist newspaper which ran from 1851 until 1921 (when it ceased publishing, though retained the name until 1960).

Another case brought to the course occurred on a night in March 1862, when John Sheehan, while drunk, attempted to show a police constable how to arrest another drunken man. In the process, he tore the constable’s coat. As a result, he received a fine of 10 shillings.


“Police Patrolling the cemetery at Limerick” c.1880. Image Limerick Museum

The Police

The police force in Ireland at this time were the R.I.C. (Royal Irish Constabulary) which was established in 1814. By 1901 there were around 1,600 barracks and some 11,000 constables in Ireland. The R.I.C. continued until 1922 when it was disbanded after the creation of the Free Irish State. A Garda Síochána were established in 1923. During the intervening period in 1922 the policing of the county was carried out by the Civic Guard.

The majority of R.I.C. members were Irish. In 1871, Robert Curtis, in his book ‘History of the Irish Constabulary‘, claimed that three quarters of the R.I.C. were Roman Catholic. After an initial training period, they were posted away from their birthplace to avoid manipulation of justice. They were also forbidden from marrying for the first seven years of employment. Though some, like Charles Moore, founds ways around that rule.