1922 – An Garda Síochána – Guardians of the Peace – is founded.

Prior to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921, Ireland was policed by the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Dublin Metropolitan Police. Needless to say, due to their loyalty to the old British regime and their association with the Auxilliaries and Black and Tans, the RIC was totally unacceptable to the vast majority of Irish people it was therefore a necessity to form a new policing agency with which to replace it.

The Metropolitan Police in the meantime were to carry on as they were. The inaugural meeting of a committee responsible for the foundation of a new police force took place in January 1922 at the Gresham Hotel in Dublin. The chairman, was Michael Staines a member of the supreme council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and a veteran of the Easter Rising of 1916 in which he served as Quartermaster General in the GPO. He was also a member of Dáil Éireann.

By 21st February 1922 the committee issued instructions to the Volunteer Brigade commanders to begin recruiting suitable candidates for the new police force which was to be armed and known as the ‘Civic Guards’. These recruits were to be single men, at least 5’9” tall and able to pass examinations in arithmetic, reading and spelling. The first Commissioner of the new force was Michael Staines.

Initially the first recruits were trained at R.D.S. Ballsbridge but were soon to be relocated to Kildare Military Barracks. Here, on 15 May 1922, whilst Michael Staines was delivering his morning address, over 1,000 guards broke ranks and seized the armoury. Staines and his senior officers had to flee the scene.

It took Michael Collins, as chairman of the Provisional Government seven weeks to bring about an end to the mutiny. It was said to have been caused by anti-treaty sympathisers amongst the recruits objecting to the use of ex-RIC members as instructors in the force. Staines handed in his resignation which was accepted in August. He was replaced by General Eoin O’Duffy.

It was not until the middle of September that members of the Garda Síochana were diffused to various locations throughout the country although Dublin Castle and Ship Street barracks had been occupied by August when the force was still known as the Civic Guards. It was at Ship Street that the force suffered its first fatality when 19 year old Guard Charles Eastwood was accidently killed by a comrade. This accident led to the disarming of the uniformed members of the force and considering that the country was in the throes of a vicious civil war it was a very bold step and one which demonstrated the bravery of each individual guard.

Source: An Garda Síochána Official website: http://www.garda.ie


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