George Clancy the Mayor of Limerick, and his immediate predecessor, Michael O’Callaghan were shot dead in their homes. Known as ‘the Curfew Murders’, as their houses were raided during the hours of curfew, their deaths shocked the whole City and Country and became International News. Mrs Clancy was wounded in a vain attempt to shield her husband from assassination and Mrs O’Callaghan also witnessed the murder of her spouse. Both victims were distinguished members of the Community and had been involved in the struggle for Independence. Clancy was an ex University Professor and a friend of James Joyce. He is believed to have provided the background for a character in Joyce’s Classic ‘Portrait of an artist as a young man.’ O’Callaghan’s grandfather, Eugene O’ Callaghan, was Mayor of Limerick in 1843. The third leading Citizen, Joseph O’Donoghue, was taken from his house that night and found shot dead in a field some hours later.
Their assailants were in Mufti, wore goggles and with their coat collars turned up but it quickly became obvious that the gang in question were serving members of the Crown Forces. Mrs O’Callaghan gathered what evidence she could collect and demanded an Inquest but no inquiry other than a military one was ever carried out. Even the ex British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith stated that members of the RIC (Auxiliaries) were the culprits. However the particular individuals who carried these attacks were never formally identified with the crimes. Many years later in the 1950s a deceased British Officer was named as one of the murderers but no conclusive proof was ever established as to his involvement.
A further twist to the story of the Murdered Mayors was added when, in February 1982, the Limerick Leader published a picture of ‘Black and Tans’, taken at William Street Police Station (now demolished). A side note to the photograph by Willie ‘Whack’ Gleeson, alleged that two of the Tans in the photograph, Sergeant Leech and Sergeant Horan, were also involved in the killings. While Leech was implicated in the murder of Joseph O’Donoghue, we don’t know what part, if any, Horan played on the night in question. In the summer of 1922 Leech was shot dead at Harcourt Street Station, Dublin.