A Four Courts Hold-Up, 1920

From the Irish Examiner, 2 December 1920:


Our Dublin Correspondent wired last night.  Shortly before 4 o’clock this afternoon a sensation was caused at the Four Courts by the arrival of a party of Auxiliary Police wearing tam-o-shanters.  They came in motors and scattered all over the buildings, holding all approaches and barring all exits.  Barristers and others having business in the Courts  were held up on leaving the Courts, and put together in a group in one of the courtyards.

Some barristers asked to be allowed to go to their rooms.  Nobody was searched. 

After a time it transpired that the arrival of the auxiliaries was a result of a hoax. It appears that a message was sent to the auxiliaries that there was a hold-up by masked men at the Four Courts, and that the Police Auxiliaries came to catch the masked men.

There was no such hold-up.”

It sounds as if the Police Auxiliaries (not ‘the Black and Tans’ but often confused with them (thank you @danmacginty for clarifying this!!) had managed to achieve the impressive feat of achieving precisely what they were seeking to prevent! Or perhaps the ‘hoax’ story was a cover and they were really after one of the many barristers helping the Irish Republican Army in the War of Independence?

On June 10, 1921 the Evening Herald further reported that

“The Four Courts were again visited today by four military lorries carrying a large number of Auxiliaries fully armed.  They took up positions in the courtyard near the side entrance at Chancery Place – the only entrance or means of exit now available – and remained there for a considerable time.”

According to the Evening Echo of June 11 1921, the Tans were engaged

“during portion of the visit removing in large sacks documents from the Records and other offices, mainly, it was stated, in accordance with the Probate Division, original wills etc. The visit of the Auxiliary Forces and their operations have created much speculation.”

Given that the Public Record Office was in fact blown up a year or so later, resulting in the destruction of many of the remaining documents, this second visit seems impressively prescient and possibly merits the Auxiliary Police a rare thumbs-up from the Irish people!

Much indebted to Gary Phelps of Hurstbourne Area Police Department for this song below!

Image (not of actual Four Courts visit): National Library of Ireland

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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