RIC Sergeant James O’Donoghue

RIC Sergeant James O’Donoghue (aged 46) from Cahirciveen, Co. Kerry (White Street, Cork city)

Date of incident: 17 Nov. 1920

Sources: CE, 18, 20, 24, 27 Nov. 1920; II, 18, 19, 25 Nov. 1920; FJ, 18 Nov. 1920; Kerryman, 27 Nov. 1920; CWN, 4 Dec. 1920; Weekly Summary of Outrages against the Police, Nov. 1920 (CO 904/148-50, TNA); Matthew O’Callaghan’s WS 561, 2 (BMH); George Hurley’s WS 1630, 4 (BMH); Leo Buckley’s WS 1714, 5 (BMH); Hart (1998), 1-18; Abbott (2000), 150-51; Leeson (2011), 66, 189, 193-94; irishmedals.org (accessed 28 July 2014).


Note: Attached to the Tuckey Street RIC station in the city centre, Sergeant O’Donoghue was shot dead at about 6 p.m. on 17 November 1920 in White Street, a narrow and ill-lighted thoroughfare between St George’s Quay and Douglas Street on the south side of the city; the site was located only about 100 yards from the Union Quay Barracks, the headquarters of the RIC in Cork. He was said in one report to have been shot in the course of an IRA raid on Lunham’s bacon factory earlier the same night. See George Hurley’s WS 1630, 4 (BMH).

A newspaper report stated that three men armed with revolvers had waylaid him after concealing themselves in a doorway along the dark street. They fired at close range and shot him through the head. ‘People in the street fled in terror, and police from Union Quay headquarters . . . arrived and removed the body in an ambulance.’ See II, 18 Nov. 1920.

According to Volunteer Leo Buckley, the staff officer for intelligence in the Cork No. 1 Brigade, his comrades Tommy Healy and Willie Joe O’Brien of G Company had shot Sergeant O’Donoghue: ‘I met them both shortly after the shooting, and as reprisals by the military or Black and Tans were anticipated, we decided to keep out of harm’s way.’ See Leo Buckley’s WS 1714, 5 (BMH). This account is partly confirmed by Abbott, who states that Volunteer Charlie O’Brien, his brother William (Willie Joe) O’Brien, and Justin O’Connor were involved in killing Sergeant O’Donoghue. They initially intended to kill someone else who failed to appear, and on their own initiative they decided to shoot O’Donoghue, to the later fury of their superiors. Sergeant O’Donoghue left a wife and four children. Having served twenty-two years with the RIC, he was in line for a promotion to head constable within a week or so. His remains were removed by motorcar on 19 November for interment in the family burial ground near Cahirciveen. See Abbott (2000), 150-51. Much bloodshed followed in reprisal killings in Broad Lane, Broad Street, and the North Mall.

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