Remembering the arms raid at Greenore port
The story I wrote last week about the trouble in Dundalk on the night the British soldiers celebrated the signing of the Peace Terms at Versailles, Paris, to alter Europe after the First World War, in late June 1919, by marching through the Town 'wearing Union Jacks and singing British songs' has reminded me that incidents like that were never mentioned when I was going to school.
These memories have been revived, however, this year by the issuing of the one Euro coins bearing the legend 'An Céad Dáil' celebrating the first sitting of Dáil Éireann at the Mansion House in January 1919.
The report in the Democrat of the time mentions that 'a small crowd of boys and well-dressed young women gathered at the Square and commenced to booh (the soldiers). On the approach of a policeman, these people made off'. The interesting point about the report is that, from it, the local people did not seem to have been as hostile to the local police and as they were to the British Army garrisoned in Dundalk.
This may have been due to the fact that policemen had served in the Town for years before the First World War and many of them had settled here after they had retired. The report also seems to indicate that many of the R.I.C. were supporters of nationalist cause and many young policemen, especially, gave assistance to the armed revolt.
This belief is strengthened by another report which I have come across relating to the seizure of arms at Greenore Port on August 1, 1919 by a group of Volunteers. Incidentally, something else that I did not appreciate until recently was that the men who were engaged in the struggle for Independence were not referred to as 'I.R.A.' until after a sitting of Dáil Eireann on August 20, 1919 when the members of assembly adopted a resolution that 'every member of the Irish Volunteers should swear allegiance to the Irish Republic and Dáil Éireann'.
The report which appeared in the Newry Reporter of August 5, 1919, states --
'A band of men raided the railway transport station at Greenore of Friday night , broke into a lock-up store and stole three sacks containing nineteen service rifles which had arrived from England and were addressed to the Commanding Officer, Royal Field Artillery, Dundalk. It is believed that motor cars were employed in the carrying out of the raid'.
The report was followed by a further story which appeared in the Reporter on August 9 in which it is stated that the matter was raised in the House Commons and the Attorney-General told the House that 'The missing rifles had not yet been traced and an inquiry was proceeding. No arrests have been made'
Why service rifles were being dispatched from England to the Commanding Officer of a regiment stationed at Dundalk Military Barrack is not mentioned in any report I have come across but it seems unlikely that they were being sent to arm military personnel.
The most likely explanation is that they were coming to arm auxiliary police. Recruiting for the R.I.C. Special Reserve, known in Ireland by the nickname 'Black and Tans' did not begin in England until late in 1919 and they did not arrive until January 1920 but the operation had been planned by the Secretary of State for War, Winston Churchhill, much earlier and this may have been a part of it.
Whatever the reason, it seems that the British Authorities did not entirely trust the serving members of the R.I.C. from the start of the conflict in 1919 and this is further borne out by another report in the Newry Telegraph of September 25, 1919 in which it is stated that ---
'The decision has been promulgated of the Constabulary Court of Inquiry held on the 6 th
(September) into the charges of neglect of duty preferred against Sergeant Daniel Deeny of Greenore in connection with the larceny of nineteen military rifles in August last. The accused has been reduced to the rank of constable and transferred to West Gate Barracks, Drogheda. The charges against the accused, who has 23 years service, were (1) That he failed to notify District-Inspector Carbery, Dundalk, of the arrival of the rifles or to take steps to have the military authorities in Dundalk informed of the same, thereby allowing them to fall into the hands of disloyal and disaffected persons and (2) That he failed to have them removed to the RIC Barracks at Greenore or to take adequate measures to prevent them falling into the hands of disloyal and disaffected persons'.
Within the past year a building at the back of a house at Euston Street, Greenore, was pointed out to me by a local resident who told me that was the place when these rifles were stored before the Volunteers broke in and stole them on the night of August 1, 1919. He said that the men who carried out this raid were well known locally and the belief was that Sergt. Deeny had informed them. It was noticeable that the store was a considerable distance from the Port and from where the RIC Barrack had been located.
Several raids by police and army were carried out on premises, including the Examiner' newspaper, in Dundalk during the month of August 1919 and it is clear that things were beginning to 'heat-up' in the Town in this month 100 years ago with confrontations between the British authorities and persons who were described in the newspapers of the time as 'Sinn Feiners'!