oldcastle, co. meath former RIC barracks building
The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) was the police force in Ireland (outside Dublin) from the early 19th century until 1922. From the 1850s the RIC performed a range of civil and local government duties together with their policing, integrating the constables with their local communities. While “barracks” in cities resembled those of the British Army, the term was also used for small country police stations often consisting of ordinary houses (as in the case at Oldcastle) or huts with a day-room and a few bedrooms. The Oldcastle RIC barracks was sited with a commanding view of the town centre as was common for RIC buildings at the time. Following the first volunteer attacks of the War of Independence in October 1919, smaller RIC barracks were evacuated and the garrisons transferred to the larger towns in Meath which featured more fortified buildings. Local volunteer groups from the Fifth Oldcastle Battalion were very active during the war of independence.
The majority of constables in rural areas were drawn from the same social class, religion and general background as their neighbours. This was the case at Oldcastle where the 1911 census records indicate that the building was occupied by eight Roman Catholics aged between 20 and 51 (their identity is indicated by initials only).
By the spring of 1920 several RIC barracks in Meath had been evacuated and the IRA had began to take over policing duties in the county although robberies became more prevalent. After the treaty was signed, the British and Irish Governments agreed to disband the RIC in January 1922. The Meath Chronicle of 18 March 1922 reported that “every police barracks in Meath is now cleared of RIC…. The old regime has given place to the new…. The flag of green, white and gold now proudly floats over fortresses hitherto sacred to the union Jack.”
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