The Limerick Curfew Murders 1921

The Limerick Curfew Murders, 1921

Limerick was at the forefront of the republican struggle during Ireland’s War of Independence in both political and military terms and its citizens paid a high price. The provisions of the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act of August 1920 strengthened the hand of the local Crown Forces and, in December, Limerick became part of what IRA chief of staff Richard Mulcahy would call the ‘War Zone’ – a martial law area mainly comprising the six counties of Munster garrisoned by the 6th Division, British Army. These developments greatly facilitated an ongoing policy of ‘unofficial reprisals’ against Irish republicans which gave the appearance of a ‘dirty war’.

In Limerick, this ‘dirty war’ culminated on the night of the 6/7 March 1921. Between 11.30pm and 1.30am, three men – the mayor of Limerick George Clancy, his immediate predecessor in that office, Michael O’Callaghan, and an IRA Volunteer named Joseph O’Donoghue – were brutally shot dead at their homes. Although British officialdom attributed what the ranking RIC officer subsequently termed ‘these callous crimes’ to radical elements of the local IRA, they were in fact the work of members of the Crown Forces, and were widely recognised as such at the time. Dubbed the Limerick Curfew Murders as they took place during a nightly military curfew, they sent shockwaves through the city and country and made headlines around the world. They remain the central event in the social memory of the revolutionary period in Limerick, where the names of its victims are inscribed on the streets.