RIC Detective Sergeant William Mulherin

RIC Detective Sergeant William Mulherin (aged 39) from Ballina, Co. Mayo (Bandon)

Date of incident: 25 July 1920 (killed as intelligence officer by IRA)

Sources: CE, 26, 28 July 1920; CWN, 31 July 1920; II, 7 Oct. 1920; Michael Riordan’s WS 1638, 11-12 (BMH); Hart (1998), 73; Abbott (2000), 105-6; Kingston (2013), 72; Bielenberg, Borgonovo, and Ó Ruairc (2015), 191; irishmedals.org (accessed 28 July 2014).


Note: Shot dead at St Patrick’s Church in Bandon, Mulherin was a noted detective and RIC Special Branch officer. Abbott has described the context for the killing: ‘The detective sergeant was the chief intelligence officer for the area of West Cork, being stationed at Bandon. The information he gained was very accurate, and the raids and arrests which followed from it were having an effect on the IRA. He realised that his life was in danger because of his duties and therefore took every precaution to ensure his safety. In early 1920 he had received several threatening letters and had survived an attempt on his life in March of that year.’ See Abbott (2000), 105.

The Cork Examiner of 26 July 1920 reported: ‘The district around Bandon has for some time been the scene of many barrack attacks and shootings of policemen, but yesterday’s shooting [of Sergeant Mulherin] at Bandon provided one of the most startling in the catalogue. The situation of the dreadful act [in a church] makes still more distressing the cruel nature of the deed.’ Mulherin was on his way to 8 o’clock Mass on Sunday. He was a little late for the beginning of Mass. He was just about to open the door to the church when shots were fired. He was hit in the back at close range: ‘His uniform was scorched, showing that the muzzle of the revolver must have been placed right up to his back.’ Canon Jeremiah Cohalan, who was saying the Mass, immediately came and administered the last rites. Four or five shots had been fired. Mulherin had sixteen years of service in the RIC. Before coming to Bandon, he had been ‘stationed for a great many years’ in Skibbereen. ‘The affair created the greatest consternation in the town, where the news quickly spread amongst the people. There was manifest throughout the day [25 July] an extraordinary spirit of police and military activity; searches of houses and persons are reported to have been made, but no arrests have taken place.’ See CE, 26 July 1921. 

Mulherin had seventeen years of service with the RIC; he had previously been a farmer. Mulherin’s widow and two infant children were later awarded £5,700 in compensation. He was a native of Ballina, Co. Mayo, and his body was interred there.

The killing of Sergeant Mulherin in church outraged not only British loyalists but also such republican leaders as Cathal Brugha and Michael Collins. According to what Liam Deasy later told Ernie O’Malley, ‘Cathal Brugha [was] very mad. Collins backed him up. [The sergeant was] meant to be shot on the way to the church.’ See Bielenberg, Borgonovo, and Ó Ruairc (2015), 191. 

The Irish Revolution Project

Scoil na Staire /Tíreolaíocht

University College Cork, Cork,