RIC Constable Joseph Murtagh

RIC Constable Joseph Murtagh (aged 46) from Westmeath (Pope’s Quay, Cork city)

Date of incident: 19 March 1920

Sources: CE, 23 March 1920; CWN, 27 March, 3 April 1920; WS 719 of Maurice Ford et al., 5 (BMH); Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 18 (BMH); Peg Duggan’s WS 1576, 9-10 (BMH); Patrick Murray’s WS 1584, 11-12 (BMH); Abbott (2000), 64-65; irishmedals.org (accessed 28 July 2014).


Note: Constable Murtagh was returning from the funeral of a colleague (Constable Healy) when he was shot dead as he walked along Pope’s Quay at about 11 at night on 19 March 1920. He was attached to the Sunday’s Well RIC station. ‘By all accounts he was an inoffensive officer who was held in high esteem by his colleagues.’

Only about two hours later, ‘armed men with blackened faces’ [RIC in disguise] shot dead Lord Mayor Tomás MacCurtain, commandant of the Cork No. 1 Brigade. The inquest on Murtagh had to be adjourned because only eight of the jurors showed up; ‘the funeral of the Lord Mayor was at the time in progress through the streets’. See CE, 23 March 1920.

Murtagh was no ordinary constable, according to Patrick ‘Pa’ Murray, the captain of C Company of the First Battalion, Cork No. 1 Brigade, and O/C of the Cork city ASU. Murtagh was shot by two members of Murray’s company—Christy MacSwiney and a Volunteer named O’Connell—‘on instructions from the brigade. It was reported that Detective Murtagh was endeavouring to get information from Martin Condon, who had been captured by the British in an attack on a barrack in Liam Lynch’s brigade area. Condon was being held prisoner in the military barracks in Cork at the time, and it was known that this detective was using extreme methods on him in order to procure information regarding Volunteer activities.’ See Patrick Murray’s WS 1584, 11-12 (BMH).

A widower with two children, Constable Murtagh lived at Sunday’s Well RIC station. He was from County Westmeath, where he had been a farmer. He had been a member of the RIC for twenty-three years at the time of his death. See Abbott (2000), 64-65. He was buried beside his wife (she had died twelve years earlier) on 22 March 1920 at the New Cemetery in Lismore, Co. Waterford, with his two sons (the elder of whom was ‘not yet sixteen’) in attendance. See CE, 23 March 1920.

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