Irish Free State Prosecuting Barrister Kidnapped, Tarred and Tied to Railings Outside Arbour Hill Prison, 1934

From the Irish Independent, 8 December 1934:

“Mr PJ McEnery, the well-known Dublin barrister, who has appeared for the State in recent cases tried by the Military Tribunal, was the victim of a startling affair last night.  While on his way from the Courts to his home at Killiney, Dublin, he was kidnapped by armed men, who forced him into a waiting taxicab.  He was driven back to the city and subsequently was discovered chained to the railings near Arbour Hill Prison.  Tar had been placed upon his head and he was suffering severely from shock.

Fastened around Mr McEnery’s neck and hanging on his breast was a tin plate, on which had been printed reports of various cases in which he had prosecuted before the Tribunal.  The men said that his conduct of these cases had met with the disapproval of the Irish Republican Army.  His kidnappers also told him that his conduct in the cases had not been considered proper by the I.R.A., and that they were acting under orders.  Mr McEnery was not long in this uncomfortable position.  Passers-by quickly cut the chains that bound him to the railings.

Interviewed by an Irish Independent representative last night at his home ‘The Hollies,’ Mr McEnery, whose head and spectacles still bore traces of the tar, gave a graphic description of the kidnapping. 

‘I was on my way home from the Law Courts this evening,’ he said, ‘and alighted from the train at Killiney Station about 5.45.  I proceeded to walk home and heard footsteps behind me.  I looked around and saw two men, who were apparently strangers in the district, following me.  I became rather suspicious and quickened my pace.  The men also walked faster.  I had passed the old Churchyard, and before I came to the next lamp on the road the men caught up on me.  They pounced on me, knocked off my hat and one of them who had a revolver threatened to shoot me if I made any noise.  They made me walk along the road with them and again repeated the threat. 

When we got to a by-way leading off the main road I was forced to walk down to where a taxi was waiting.   I saw there were two other men in the taxi, sitting in front of it.  The man beside the driver had a revolver.  I was bundled into the back of the taxicab by the two men who had accompanied me up the road.  When I was inside the taxi they put a tin plate around my body, inscribed ‘McEnery, the felon setter.’  The taxi then went off, up Killiney Hill, and went by a circuitous route through Ballsbridge, to Arbour Hill.’

‘In the taxi,’ continued Mr McEnery, “the men told me that they were acting under the orders of the IRA, and that they were prosecuting me for my action in conducting the recent Toomevara Courtmartial case before the Military Tribunal.  Near Arbour Hill Church I was taken out of the taxi, handcuffed and chained to the church railings.  The men then affixed a card around my neck and poured tar over my head.  I noticed that the place was rather deserted at the time, and after I had been chained to the railings the men got into the taxi and made off.    About 3 or 4 minutes later, after several people had passed me without taking any notice of my predicament, a man came up who procured assistance and eventually I was released.  I was taken to Arbour Hill Barracks… where the tar was cleaned from my person and I was later driven to my home in Killiney.’

‘I should mention,’ he added, ‘that the men told me in the taxi that my conduct as Counsel for the State in connection with certain cases against members of the I.R.A was not considered to be proper. I informed them that I did my work to the best of my ability, and was prepared to do my duty as counsel for the prosecution.  They told me they were acting under orders, and they behaved as courteously as they could towards me in the circumstances.’

Mr McEnery, though somewhat agitated after his ordeal, was apparently none the worse physically when speaking to our representative. He is 32 years of age and married. His wife is at present in the country.”

Subsequently, John Kelly, of Cork Street, Dublin, was charged before the Military Tribunal in Collins Barracks with offences arising from the above incident.  However, as Mr McEnery could not identify the accused’s voice, the Tribunal found that there was little point in proceeding and the accused was discharged.

The same railings today

It would be very interesting to have more detail on the future career of Mr McEnery, from Knocktopher, County Kilkenny.  He took silk before he was 40, but left to practice in England in 1947.  Two autobiographical memoirs, Look Back in Love and Glimpses in Retrospect, are with the UCD Archives. 

Poor Mr McEnery – at least his spectacles, if not his composure, survived the above ordeal undamaged! The period following the establishment of the Irish Free State was without doubt a challenging time, not merely for the new legal system but also, it seems, for those working within it!

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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