One of the most ambitious experiments by the underground Dáil Éireann was their takeover of local government from the British LGB. In April 1919, W. T. Cosgrave was appointed Dáil minister for local government, with Kevin O’Higgins later taking up position as his assistant. The ministry was unable to achieve much until the 1920 local elections saw landslide victories for Sinn Féin candidates. In June 1920, while the local elections were still under way, the Dáil local government department issued instructions to all local bodies to pass resolutions declaring their allegiance to Dáil Éireann and refusal to communicate with the LGB. Most county councils in the southern 26 counties obliged. Following the elections, one of the key tasks for the department was maintaining and funding the infrastructure of local government while insisting on defiance of the LGB among local bodies.1 Despite the chaotic conditions of revolution, they were able to achieve this to a remarkable degree.
In July 1920, the British government decided to deal with the subversion of local bodies by withdrawing all grants and advances from any council that refused to obey its instructions to submit their books for audit. In another attempt to wrest control back from the separatists, claims for malicious injury (either by IRA or Crown forces) would be charged against the rates. The locally collected poor rate accounted for about 80 per cent of county council revenue in 1918 and 1919; the withdrawal of government grants therefore put extra pressure on the rates to pay for councils’ services and made vital the protection of these funds. In response, the Dáil devised a scheme that asked collectors to refuse to lodge rates collected with the LGB-sanctioned treasurer (usually a local bank) but instead with secret trustees (‘men of standing in the community and of unimpeachable character’). The money would be received from collectors, and later distributed, by a bonded ‘paymaster’.2 To remove them from their obligations to the LGB, collectors would resign only to be immediately reappointed by their councils.
This scheme was first launched by Clare County Council on its own initiative but was recommended for all other county councils ‘similarly situated’ by a Dáil commission of enquiry into local government in August 1920.3 With economy and prudent spending, councils could still realistically hope to operate on poor rate revenue alone. But this could only be achieved if rates were collected and made available in a timely and efficient manner. ‘From the time local authorities were instructed to take measures to safeguard public funds’, DELG secretary T. J. McArdle recalled, ‘the collection of rates became a burning question’.4 Tom Garvin has remarked that the collection of rates during this period ‘remained a chronic, general and apparently insoluble problem’.5 Since David Fitzpatrick’s pioneering study of Clare first examined the revolution in local government, county studies have continued to followed suit, yet a short section in Garvin’s chapter on local government in his 1996 book, 1922: the birth of Irish democracy, remains the most detailed account of the collection of the poor rate from 1920 to 1922.6 This chapter will build on that work and offer a fuller analysis of resistance and coercion in the rate collection.
The failure to pay or collect rates
Taxes are rarely popular and the local rates had always been the subject of dissent, complaint, and opposition. Revolution only added to the potential for disagreement. Tom Garvin has noted that loyalist ratepayers ‘resisted paying rates to a putatively treasonous Sinn Féin council in late 1920’ and political aversion to the republican counter-state made some usually reliable ratepayers unwilling to hand over money to ‘illegally appointed’ Dáil collectors.7 Church of Ireland rector Revd Robert Wade, for instance, mentioned his refusal to pay rates to the ‘Sinn Fein collector’ as evidence of his ‘allegiance to the Government of the United Kingdom’ when applying to the IGC.8 Arthur Gick, from Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare, informed the chief secretary in September 1921 that ‘An attempt has been made to collect the rates in this district and the collector, illegally appointed, called upon me for my rates. In obedience to the notice issued by Government I refused payment.’9 Ethel Peacocke, mother of Colonel Warren Peacocke, shot by the IRA in West Cork, received a demand for rates and wrote to Dáil Éireann to remind them that ‘your armies have already cruelly murdered my son, burned down the house on which the rates are assessed, and sold for your own purposes all my property in the gardens’; ‘I always understood taxes were levied for the protection and enjoyment of life and property, and I should think it is an unheard of case to demand them where both life and property have been wilfully and cruelly destroyed.’10
But, more often than not, political allegiance was not the most pressing issue at stake for a ratepayer called upon by a republican collector. Decisions to obey or resist were, instead, characterised more by prevarication than loyalty.
Ratepayers certainly took advantage of disturbed conditions and confusion after 1920 to avoid or delay paying rates, as Michael Farry and Marie Coleman have found in Sligo and Longford respectively.11 Ratepayers’ traditional demand of value for money also remained and was, if anything, accentuated as the cost of war and withdrawal of British grants resulted in significant rate increases from 1920. In a January 1921 report, Cosgrave acknowledged that ‘when the customary essential services were furnished by the rate raising bodies the rate payers accepted their responsibilities where their wants were supplied’.12 Rising costs and shrinking revenue made it difficult to keep meeting the various ‘wants’ of outspoken ratepayers. Roads, for example, were constantly being dug up on IRA orders and re-laid on demand of the Crown forces, while increased police and military patrols further contributed to their deterioration. Repairing the damaged roads would potentially affect the guerrilla war, invoking IRA disapproval, and many local councils had not the funds to do so anyway, embittering road workers as well as users. One collector reported to the secretary of Galway County Council that several large ratepayers had informed him they ‘do not intend paying because they have not got anything for their money, and the most objection they have is owing to the bad state of the roads’.13
By July 1921, many roads were in an advanced state of disrepair and Cosgrave’s department and the county councils were caught in a series of dilemmas: without the rate money councils were unable to meet their liabilities while many ratepayers did not want to pay for services they could not see; when Monaghan county council resolved to stop all road works in the county, the secretary, opposed to the decision, wrote to Cosgrave that ‘a shortage of funds was not the reason for dismissing all the workers but the alleged reason for this ill advised step was that “we are at war & the roads should not be repaired for the use of the enemy”.’14 Monaghan IRA commander Eoin O’Duffy (a council surveyor by profession) defended the policy as part of ‘the general scheme of economy whereby only absolutely essential services were retained’ and a necessity to ‘hamper enemy activity’ (‘the enemy’, he declared, ‘is almost 2,000 strong in the County and motor traffic is largely confined to them and the loyalists – very few of our people get permits’). O’Duffy also speculated that ‘the saving affected by cutting off all road expenditure would exceed any rates the Council might possibly receive from the Unionists should the Council continue to repair the roads. Besides we have no guarantee that if road work were continued the Unionists would pay the rates’. But admitted that ‘I don’t know what is being done in other Counties similarly situated and find it difficult to give a decision on the matter’, suggesting that Unionist councillors be asked to undertake a pledge that if road works were resumed, the rates would be ‘paid promptly, say inside a month’.15
Simple economics also affected the collection. Some ratepayers who were in arrears claimed they were more than willing to support the Dáil government and pay their dues but simply could not afford to. The Irish economy was weak in 1920 and by late 1921 a general depression had hit the sale of livestock and other produce. Following an enquiry into the collection in Fermanagh in early 1922, rate collectors in the county explained that ‘the ratepayers had not the money, and were at present unable to sell their cattle’, ‘the rates were unreasonable – the rates being more than the rent, and if they were not materially reduced they would not be able to be collected next year at all’, and ‘I do not expect to get in the rates in my district, as the farmers are not able to pay them’.16 When a Cork collector, finding it impossible to collect in his town ‘owing to the depression in trade generally’, applied for an extension to his collection period in September 1921, the ministry sympathetically sanctioned the request.17 In Donegal, ratepayer Philip McLaughlin wrote directly to Cosgrave: ‘I have always paid my rates & I always expect to do so, but I am sorry to inform you that I shall not be able to pay them yet for another month or fortnight when I will get some money and pay them. I hope you will give me sparence that long.’18 Patrick McCorriston was similarly ‘quite willing to pay rates but I am not able to do so until November. I have no stock or crop to sell as I let the land every year. I will pay as soon as ever I let it and will thank you to give me no trouble as I have tried my best to get it but it is impossible.’19 Another ratepayer in Celbridge, County Kildare, told Cosgrave he ‘had a year’s stock of cattle and I cannot get an offer on even one of them so that is the reason why it [the rates] is not paid’, tellingly adding, ‘it will not be necessary to use Compulsion on me as I have always supported anything in connection with Dail Eireann and means to do so (as all Dail Collectors know)’.20
Uncertainty about the political settlement after the Truce encouraged some ratepayers to await the result of peace negotiations before handing over their hard-earned cash. A ratepayer in Dunfanaghy, County Donegal, for example, received a demand notice from the local Dáil Éireann sanctioned collector in September 1921 which he refused to pay ‘till he sees how matters settle down’. The Dunfanaghy RIC considered that ratepayers were unhappy at having to pay such high rates, non-payment was a ‘protest’, and rates would all be paid eventually.21 By October 1921, Seán Duffy believed the arrears in Wicklow were around £5,000 and remarked that ‘Something should be done, because I imagine some ratepayers are inclined to take advantage of the Truce and treat the Republican Government with contempt.’22 The bad example of individuals encouraged others, as noted by the Dáil ministry’s inspector for King’s County: ‘when one man in a townland defies the rate-collector & refuses to contribute his portion, his neighbours seeing him getting off free will be sure to follow suit with the result that you will soon after have no rates coming in’.23 Shaking up the main protagonists was often considered a suitable remedy. An IRA leader in Kerry informed the secretary of the county council that ratepayers who would have paid before were no longer doing so as a result of Farmers’ Union activity. He suggested that ‘If a few of the ringleaders were kidnapped or something that way it would also have a great effect as there are dozens of people who are only watching this no rate movement and who would pay should it be put down; waverers’.24
Even within a region the reasons for dissent could vary. In Cavan, where the rate struck was widely considered excessive and the council inefficient, the registrar of the East Cavan District Court wrote to the minister for home affairs, Austin Stack, outlining the difficulties with the collection in the county. He blamed a misunderstanding about the use of the rates and the conditions of the Truce: ‘some of them believe that they are paying for Malicious Injury claims, more thought they would, I suppose, take advantage of the times and that there was no law to compel them’.25 A report from the county’s Dáil inspector confirmed some of the registrar’s remarks:
There are undoubtedly difficulties in connection with the rate-collection in this County though I fear none of them arises from the misapprehension of the ratepayers as to the uses of the rates. Some ratepayers are trying to take advantage of the times to get out of paying while others are suffering from the present slump in prices and according to the ratecollectors are not able to pay presently. In the districts bordering Monaghan as I have previously reported, the Collectors were told the Monaghan people paid no rates so why should they be paid in Cavan.26
Locally organised opposition groups regularly appeared. According to Tom Garvin, this was (ironically) more likely to be successful in ‘remote, poorer and “republican” counties’.27 Among the most active were ratepayers’ associations and the Farmers’ Union who usually highlighted an unjustifiably high rate or the imprudent distribution of council funds as their chief grievances. The Dublin Farmers’ Union brought a case against the legality of the rate struck in July 1921 and the County Dublin Ratepayers’ Association (a prominent organiser of ratepayer opposition) wrote to the council demanding that Cosgrave conduct an enquiry into the rate struck for the present year.28 The Farmers’ Union and ratepayers’ associations were similarly active in Kerry. A list of ‘Prominent People v Rates’ from Ballylongford, County Kerry, named both the president and the secretary of the local Farmers’ Union branch along with two others, Thomas O’Connor and Thomas Kissane, who had apparently claimed, respectively, that: ‘they beat the landlords already & they were able to do the same against the rates’ and ‘if they stuck together they would beat the rate as every man’s cow could not be carried’ (a reference to the practice of seizing property in lieu of unpaid rates).29 A meeting of farmers and ratepayers in October 1921, chaired by Thomas O’Connor, resolved that only 10 shillings in the pound would be paid:
The sudden fall in prices, and cannot dispose of their surplus stock … The sick poor is not attended to. The roads are not repaired &c., consequently why pay a staff of officials for doing nothing, whilst the ratepayers must work hard to make ends meet, and regards their present action as a necessity and not as a hostile opposition to the present Council.30
At the same time, in South Kerry, ratepayers in Bonane proposed a rate of eight shillings in the pound, while those in Glenflesk refused to pay any rates until the matter of deputies being paid ‘for doing nothing’ was addressed.31
Monaghan County Council was well managed, relatively efficient, and able to strike a rate well below that in neighbouring Cavan. The most significant problem facing the council in Monaghan was ‘loyalist’ ratepayers, who contributed over half of the total rates in the county. The Dáil ministry’s inspector in Monaghan noted that the stoppage of road works was ‘strongly resented by the Contractors and, more important, by the workmen concerned. More important still it gave handle to the large Ratepayers – mainly Unionist Farmers – not to pay their Rates as they were not getting the value expressly stated in the demand notes’.32 It was feared that any threat of legal proceedings would be ineffective as locals believed that the Dáil department would not willingly enter a British court and ‘the ratepayers, especially the Unionists amongst them “will call our bluff”.’33 By September 1921, arrangements were being looked into with Eoin O’Duffy to get the Monaghan IRA involved but not because of loyalist opposition. Rather, the collectors were not doing their jobs.34
This was a particularly unpleasant time to be a rate collector. Not only was there the usual opposition to the payment of rates but from 1920 collectors were embroiled in the ongoing battle between the LGB and Dáil department. T. J. McArdle later recorded that:
As soon as the banks were deprived of the treasurership to local authorities and trustees appointed to take charge of the funds, trouble began with the rate collectors. The collectors held that under their bonds they were bound to lodge the monies with the banks as treasurers and some refused to hand over the monies to the trustees whom they regarded as not being the officially appointed treasurers.35
Allegiance to Dáil Éireann or the LGB was not always the most important issue at stake, and practical concerns often trumped politics. Collectors were concerned about the legal implications of lodging rate money with an unauthorised or illegal body, fearing that if republican local government were to fail, money lodged anywhere other than the LGB-sanctioned treasurer would not be recognised, leaving the collector and his sureties, under their official bond, liable for any money collected and lodged in this way.36 They were not necessarily taking sides. Many of the collectors who were politically or ideologically opposed to the Dáil’s instructions had either resigned or been replaced by their councils. The remaining collectors had offered, in Kevin O’Higgins’s words, ‘a tacit acceptance of the new situation and duties it involved’; non-compliance was now tantamount to treason.37 To appease one of the collectors’ main concerns, the decision to dispense with a bank as treasurer was quickly reversed in many counties. But replacements for resigned or dismissed collectors caused a further problem. They did not receive the sanction of the LGB and were, therefore, not legally entitled to collect rates. In many counties they were successfully harassed by the RIC and some unlucky collectors imprisoned. Moreover, ratepayers occasionally refused to regard receipts issued by them as valid and were understandably reluctant to pay.38 For those who might decide to resign – a difficult decision to make without the immediate prospect of new employment – the status of their pension was crucial. In January 1921, nine collectors resigned in Dublin and immediately requested their pensions be fixed; seven had been raided and had their books and accounts taken by armed men.39 ‘Not knowing which persecutor would prevail’, as David Fitzpatrick has put it, ‘many collectors retreated into canny inactivity’.40
In early December 1920, the instructions of the Dáil ministry were modified to appease collectors, who were instructed to lodge into a local bank and immediately write a crossed cheque payable to the county council for the amount lodged. The council secretary would then cash the cheque and transfer the money to the newly appointed trustees. A week later, all local bodies were instructed to indemnify their rate collectors against any loss sustained in following the Dáil ministry’s instructions.41 The changes, however, had little effect on the attitude of disobedient collectors and by the end of the month it became clear that they were either holding collected money themselves or, worse, not collecting at all. In Westmeath, for example, only three collectors agreed to the Dáil proposal while 17 made it clear that they were only prepared to lodge to an officially appointed treasurer.42
For its part, the LGB had advised collectors to lodge the money into an account in their own name and retain it there.43 On 21 December, O’Higgins addressed a long and typically bullish circular to rate collectors claiming that one of the means employed by the LGB to overthrow republican local government was ‘to endeavour to impede the collection of rates by bluffing the rate collectors’ but the ‘very thin bluffing should not impress anyone … these threats of dismissal [from the LGB] only serve to make those who issue them ridiculous’ – it was, after all, the councils who paid salaries and pensions. O’Higgins assured collectors that they were in a strong position, even by English law, if they followed their council’s instructions and that in the ‘extremely unlikely’ event of their suffering any financial loss they were indemnified by the local bodies. Collectors were then offered a stark warning:
Any rate collector who throws in his lot with the enemy and endeavours to force his Council to conform to enemy regulations by a refusal to resign or to collect the rates is warned that in doing so he is acting as a public enemy and will be appropriately dealt with … If the rates are not promptly collected suffering will ensue for the poor who are depending on outdoor relief; unemployment will ensue owing to Councils being unable to continue road work, and for all these hardships and privations the public will hold the collectors responsible who endeavoured to force his Council to so dispose of the public monies as to please them at the mercy of the enemy for the payment of what the enemy smugly terms ‘criminal and malicious injury claims.’
After this circular, the department would ‘appeal no more, but … act sternly and swiftly as a Government in a state of war … “Collect or resign, or take the consequences”.’44
There was a threat of violence for those who wished to interpret it as such: Dublin Castle official Mark Sturgis wrote in his diary that, ‘By way of an Xmas card’, the rate collectors had received ‘a circular letter threatening them in so many words with death if they do not collect rates and hand them over to the illegal treasurers’.45 When an RIC head constable was followed on a train and, disembarking at the station in Ballybrack, asked if he would pay his rates, a police complaint suggested that ‘Two police were murdered at this station some time ago & the manner in which the question was asked combined with the association of this station implied a distinct threat’.46 There was also a financial threat for the rate collectors who stood liable for amounts collected. O’Higgins’ circular was typical of many that were issued by his department and targeted at rate payers, collectors, and council officials, containing a mixture of explanation, justification, thinly veiled threat, and appeal to patriotism.47 In Dublin, where a number of hostile urban councils had withheld money, O’Higgins himself asked if direct action could be taken against the offending bodies: ‘Who signs the paying orders and where are they kept? If these people were tackled early some morning and compelled to make these paying orders or cheques payable to the Secretary or to yourself as Chairman, they would be kept in custody until cash was obtained.’48
In his letter to the chief secretary, Kildare ratepayer Arthur Gick complained that:
The District authority, acting under orders from the Dail crew have published in the Leinster Leader newspaper of Sept. 24th a list of ‘Defaulters’ who, like myself, have been loyal to the orders of the proper authority. The Dail has by public notice branded all such ‘Defaulters’ as ‘Public enemies’. We know what this means. I beg to enquire what protection I can be given in the likely event of an attempt being made to collect my rates by force, or an attempt being made to levy a distress on my property?49
Another loyalist ratepayer in Carlow later claimed that he paid rates to the LGB collector in March 1921 but was then forced to pay the same rates to a republican collector accompanied by armed men, fined an extra £5, and subsequently boycotted.50 Though not explicitly stated, it was implied that the ‘armed men’ were members of the IRA. How then, did the Dáil department endeavour to coerce defaulting ratepayers to pay their dues and convince recalcitrant collectors to collect and lodge them, and what role did the IRA play?
On 10 January 1921, the ministry made a number of policy decisions to deal with the collection of rates, again stating that collectors who failed to lodge in accordance with department instructions should resign or be dismissed, but this time that they would be replaced, if necessary, with an ‘outdoor staff’; county councils were informed that ‘Lists of defaulters [were] to be forwarded to the Department of Local Government and to be dealt with by the defence Department when necessary’.51 In making use of the department of defence, County Clare once again led the way. The chairman of Clare County Council was prominent Volunteer leader Michael Brennan and in February 1921 the Clare IRA raided the homes of rate collectors, seized their books and took away over £8,000 in cash. The IRA and Irish Republican Police took over the duties of rate collection in the county and company captains became responsible for the collection in their areas, which were overseen by their battalion OC. Money collected was then handed over to a nominee of the brigade council.52 This did not go unnoticed and a March 1921 police report mentioned that the ‘I.R.A. have agents through the county collecting Rates’.53
In the short term, this action brought a noticeable improvement and the collection for the period ending May 1921 was practically closed by April.54 Similar action was later taken in Sligo where rate collectors had refused to hand the money they had collected over to the council in the absence of a LGB sanctioned treasurer. At a council meeting on 11 December 1920, the chairman announced that the failure of rate collectors to comply with the instructions of the council had left the council in a ‘complete state of financial embarrassment’.55 In spring 1921, the Sligo IRA went a step further than their Clare counterparts and apprehended disobedient rate collectors, also recovering £8,000. ‘It was subsequently stated that in consequence of the action of the I.R.A. a total sum of £80,000 (including the £8,000) was collected in rates and paid to the Co. Council’.56 In neighbouring Roscommon, collector Joseph Jordan was arrested by the IRA in October 1920 and taken to an ‘unknown destination’, following a warrant issued by the Dáil department. Contrary to department instructions, Jordan had ‘lodged the full amount of his collection to his own private bank account and wrote the English Local Government Board for instructions as to the disposal of these funds – the property of the Roscommon ratepayers’. The council secretary was urged by O’Higgins to compel Jordan to surrender his books and accounts and make out a cheque for the money he had collected, payable to the council’s paymaster. ‘In addition to any penalty the [republican] Court may see fit’, Jordan was to be dismissed without pension.57 In December, O’Higgins informed the acting chairman of the council that Jordan’s books were in RIC custody but he had given his ‘word of honour to get the books back from the police and give them to the proper persons’. Providing he had handed over the requested cheques he could be released and allowed to fulfil his promise (after which he would be dismissed).58
The case of four Sligo collectors is evidence of the pressure that needed to be applied repeatedly to both payers and collectors (‘unfit and unworthy of the position they occupy’) who continued to cause their county council problems in November 1921. After the secretary declared that it ‘should seriously consider what is the best course to pursue in the object of bringing them to a sense of their duty’, the council decided simply to dismiss one (McHugh, Tubbercurry), dismiss another (Gilmartin, Sligo) ‘on the grounds of gross negligence, insubordination and inefficiency’, and allow two others (McGloin and Kennedy, Sligo Rural) a week to close their accounts.59 The following month, however, the Dáil inspector recorded that McHugh (who had actually been allowed to resign) had promised to hand over money but nothing had been done to make him ‘fulfil his promise’ and ‘necessary measures’ should be taken against him; the ‘laxity’ shown by the council in allowing McGloin to retain money he had collected was ‘too palpable for comment’; and the mess left behind by Gilmartin was ‘more serious than as yet contemplated’. ‘The County Council gave this man too much rope … the Secretary is not determined enough and likes to take the smoothest course’.60
The correspondence between the Dáil department and county councils is, unsurprisingly, vague when referring to the ‘measures’ to be taken by the IRA in the collection of rates. One King’s County collector, for example, simply suggested that three defaulters in his area ‘get a quiet shaking up’.61 Methods of dealing with defaulters varied. In Westmeath, James Duignam was approached by three Volunteers (one of whom was alleged to be the rate collector for the area) at 5 p.m. on a November evening and asked to get down from his horse and cart. When he refused, one of the men took a revolver from his pocket and threatened to shoot him. Duignam’s horse and cart were then taken to a stable on a nearby farm but were returned when he paid the men fifteen shillings for rates and one shilling for the cost of the summons to a Dáil court he had ignored.62 In Ballybunion, County Kerry, Patrick Collins was woken in the early hours one morning to find a large quantity of his hay on fire. When asked why the fire was not reported to the police, Collins replied that he had been visited by ‘Sinn Fein’ who ‘had the matter in hands and he would be entitled to some compensation later on’. The reporting RIC officer was certain that Collins had refused to pay his rates to the IRA and believed the hay was burned ‘as revenge for the refusal and to intimidate him into paying them in future’.63
Abraham and Robert Watchorn, farmers in Tullow, County Carlow, both claimed that on the same night they had cows seized by the local rate collector and armed Volunteers after they refused to pay.64 In Tinahely, County Wicklow, the rate collector seized three cows belonging to the defaulting Samuel Watchorn with the sanction of the council and local republican police. The collector claimed ‘there were a certain number of ratepayers who absolutely refused to pay their rates’ and ‘Watchorn seemed to me to be one of the leaders of these ratepayers in their refusal, as many of them told me they would pay their rates when Watchorn did’. The action appeared to have a good effect as the collector subsequently found ‘no difficulty in getting the rates from these people. I believe they were an organised ring’.65 Kidnapping was less common, but in Listowel, County Kerry (‘a persistent trouble spot in the eyes of the Dáil’),66 three brothers were taken away and put before a republican court for ‘refusing to pay rates and other offences’. Cattle were also taken but returned on satisfactory payment of their dues.67 An unfortunate tenant in Donegal was inadvertently put in a difficult position by attempts to coerce his landlord (‘a Die hard loyalist’) who was refusing to pay rates. He was warned by the collector not to pay rent but argued that ‘if I pay any rent Sienn Feinn will seize all I have in the house & if I dont pay the rent the landlord will throw me out which they have done a few weeks ago as the R.I.C. have full controle & a free hand here’.68 His predicament, caught between two opposing forces, was not uncommon.
In some areas, Volunteers accompanied the local collectors as they went about their work. In Longford, the CI reported that ‘the rate collectors, in some cases, go about with an escort of I.R.A.’ but speculated that ‘this is probably to see that the rate collector accounts for rates collected, to the satisfaction of Sinn Fein, as much as to oversee the people into paying’.69 On the afternoon of 20 October 1921, a labourer named Patrick Carr reported to the local RIC that ‘Sinn Fein police were in his house and were going to seize for rates, and that he required protection’. When the RIC arrived they found seven men in Carr’s home. One of these men stated that he had been sent to collect £1 16s.10d. based on a warrant issued a few days previously. The RIC considered it strange that the council’s rate collector was not there and the Volunteer conceded ‘that he considered this was the rate collector’s work and that they should not have been sent on it’. The seven men left having been told by the RIC that they would not be collecting anything that day. After the men had left, Carr pointed out that he would pay the amount when he got a chance; however, the RIC officer noted that Carr ‘is a very poor man and there does not appear to be £1’s worth of furniture in the house’.70
A traditional recourse for collectors dealing with recalcitrance was the parish and district courts, and under the Dáil system collectors could take proceedings in a republican alternative. This, of course, could only be carried out when and where republican courts were fully functioning. In Monaghan, for example, it was not until October 1921 that a resolution was passed calling on collectors to make use of the republican system. ‘The Courts being down in working order will greatly facilitate matters as the mere threat of bringing them into same should cause a good many to pay’, noted the Dáil inspector for the county.71 The same month, Seán Duffy enquired with the minister for home affairs if rate defaulters ‘are to be brought before our courts’ in Wexford and Wicklow, where ‘this matter is giving some trouble’.72 Dáil courts experienced their most active period during the Truce and remained busy with cases against defaulting ratepayers.73 Defendants recorded in surviving clerks’ reports from three parishes in Queen’s County, for instance, were exclusively rate defaulters.74 Collectors had been legally entitled to seize property from defaulters in lieu of amounts due and under the Dáil system it was usually the IRA or Irish Republican Police who carried out seizures.
The lack of a functioning republican court system where decrees could be adequately enforced hindered the collection. Using the British system as an alternative to prosecute defaulters, meanwhile, was unacceptable to republicans but highlighted the often shifting and contradictory nature of the allegiance of local bodies. When a prominent professional was summoned to the Dublin police court, he pointed out ‘the inconsistent attitude of the Corporation, who, while pretending to conform to the decrees of Dail Eireann, yet came to court to invoke the aid of British law to enforce payment of the rates’. Believing the attitude of the council was ‘distinctly inconsistent’, ‘he sought an assurance that if he now paid his rates he would not be called upon by some other authority to again pay them’.75 Deficiencies or weaknesses in the republican system could cause further problems. In Queen’s County, a number of people who had withheld their rates were summoned and collectors had deposited costs with the court. ‘Strangely enough’, the Dáil inspector reported, ‘I understand that where decrees were granted no costs were included. In other cases, as long as a month’s grace was extended to defaulters’.76 This left the collectors out of pocket and unwilling to take further cases to court. Another of the county’s rate collectors complained in March 1922 that he had brought defaulters to court and received decrees against them but had heard nothing since.77 The problem was never fully resolved and similar complaints were repeated throughout 1922 and 1923.78
In November 1921, Cosgrave told the minister for home affairs of the ‘overwhelming case against the Court in Kerry as regards the Rate collection’ and asked if he ‘would be able to take such action as shall ensure the Rate Collectors shall get full and speedy redress against defaulting Ratepayers’. Two collectors in Tarbert had been dealing with opposition from the local Farmers’ Union, a recurrent problem in the county (and elsewhere). The local republican justice was head of the union and when the collectors brought defaulting ratepayers to the republican court they ‘got no satisfaction’. ‘Unless the Courts will act impartially and unless the Decrees are executed with despatch it is hopeless to think of satisfactory Rate collection here’, noted the unimpressed Dáil inspector. A new branch of the Farmers’ Union was set up in Lixnaw, and they also proposed not to pay rates. In that locality, receipts for the 1920 collection were in the hands of republican police, some of whom were accused of trying to collect rates when their ‘own people have not paid theirs’. The inspector believed that if the courts were working properly and decrees promptly executed there would be an ‘immediate and general improvement’. One major complaint was the prohibitive cost of taking proceedings: deposit fees were high and Kerry courts were failing to award costs against prosecuted defaulters. Under the ‘English Courts’, the collectors claimed they could formerly ‘get justice done much more cheaply’. Another was the length of time it took to execute decrees; a failure of the court to enforce its own rulings. One collector, who had a number of outstanding decrees to his name, was apparently ‘fed up’ with the courts and another ‘knows of only one case where distraint was carried out and therefore saw no use in prosecuting defaulters’. The inspector appealed to the Dáil Ministry of Home Affairs to do something to rectify the situation.79 On 16 November, Stack informed Cosgrave that he was writing to all the registrars in Kerry on the matter and asking the chief of police to issue special instructions to his officers. The clerk for the district court in north Kerry immediately reported a marked improvement:
in some districts organised opposition is being offered to the payment of the rates but the gang is being broken and those people who have had to pay costs now are very sorry that they ever allowed civil bills to go out against them. This week the [republican] Police seized 7 heads of cattle on foot of a decree for rates for one party, overpowered three of the men who tried to resist them, also seizing one revolver from them. This seizure and arrest has frightened the others. Several were in yesterday paying up. Our Justices of the District Court and Listowel Parish Court have always granted decrees for rates in every case. These are being collected in day by day. Last week I got over £160 from one man and have over £50 this week for the same Rate Collector.
The full cooperation of the local IRA had been promised and they were expected to ‘break the gang’ soon.80
Leitrim was one of the country’s most impoverished counties and caused much trouble for the new local administrators. The Dáil inspector ruefully noted in June that ‘the whole crux is the Collectors … the number of defaulting ratepayers would be very small and any money the Collectors have not got they could have if they continued collecting – they have almost ceased collecting’. The collectors were apparently unwilling to hand over their collections in the absence of a LGB-sanctioned treasurer.81 Their attitude was probably further hardened as a number of collectors were raided and had their books and money stolen. Patrick Curran was raided three times. According to the Dáil inspector there was ‘some local dispute in this case of long standing, and besides the man is not “popular” in his District and the people absolutely refuse to pay him any rates’. Curran later resigned his position but his successors were initially hampered by the lack of records. Other collectors also had their books taken by local anti-rates bodies or individuals, leading to what the inspector termed ‘an epidemic of raids on Collectors in this County, and same have had a marked bad effect on the collection, and also the Collectors’; he recommended that ‘Defence’ be contacted with a view to securing return of the books.82 The situation was further complicated as the chairman of the council was on the run and the paymaster elected to replace the Northern Bank as treasurer was in prison (the bank could not be reappointed owing to the Belfast boycott).83
By October 1921, the situation in Leitrim was desperate. Substantial amounts dating back to 1920 remained uncollected and for the last moiety, due to be closed on 30 September, only £1,085 had been lodged out of a sum just shy of £49,000.84 Anti-rates meetings were organised in parishes across the county in September and October to oppose the high rate struck. A meeting of the Aughavas ratepayers in South Leitrim protested on the grounds that ‘the rate struck is exorbitant & unjust and out of all proportions in comparison with the neighbouring counties viz Cavan, Longford & Roscommon. We as loyal subjects of Dail Eireann are prepared to pay a just rate’.85 Eamon O’Carroll, the ministry’s inspector, attended another meeting in Drumreilly and, failing to satisfy the crowd, had to fire over the heads of agitators.86 A letter from one Leitrim collector offers a revealing insight into the position in his collection district and is worth quoting at length:
It seems to me there is some undercurrent secretly working to prevent payment of rates.
I tried to explain to the people the cause of the present increase in the Rates, and appealed to their patriotism, showing them that the British Government stopped giving the grants to the County they were legally entitled to – because they would not levy malicious injury decrees which if they did would be far more than the present rate – now, they were doing the work the enemy Government desired them to do by opposing the rate levied by their own elected representatives and sanctioned by the Governing authority in Ireland (Dail Eireann) But the no-rate cry can find more favour with the people, and the people who raises it will be more popular than he who says they must pay.
At present the collection is a most difficult, and if something is not soon done, an impossible task. People who profess to be great Sinn Feiners are as much opposed to it as others.
It is true that the people may be a bit pressed owing to the bad fairs and markets, but there are a great many who could pay and will not.
I called on some policemen who are ratepayers and they refused, saying that everyone was objecting and that they were right, as it was both exorbitant and illegal, apparently well pleased of the fact. It is only by the adoption of strong and vigorous measures, will this resistance be broke down, and the sooner it is done the better for the welfare of Local Administration.87
Though they could, perhaps, be accused of being unreasonable, maybe even irrational, the anti-rates agitators in Leitrim were not generally disloyal to the republic; many were ‘Sinn Feiners’. They were poor farmers hit by high taxation and low income. They were also subject to rumour, gossip, the lure of the crowd, and tempting thoughts of getting away without paying at all. When income and livelihoods were at stake, and the opportunity presented itself, members of the public were prepared to defy the IRA in a way that was not based around politics, loyalty, or allegiance but self-interest.
It was proposed in early October that, rather than succumbing to what Tom Garvin has described as occasional ‘Dark and almost wistful thoughts of expelling Leitrim from the new state’, a drastic measure was proposed to ensure the collection would begin in earnest to save the council from bankruptcy.88 Following a report from O’Carroll, Cosgrave was informed that he had ‘absolutely no alternative but to ask the Ministry to give instructions to the Defence Department to send a picked body of about 40 active and intelligent men to collect rates in this County’.89 On 10 October, Cosgrave and O’Higgins submitted a memo to the Dáil Cabinet ‘on condition of Rate Collection in County Leitrim to show the need for extraordinary methods in this County’. It pointed to an
irreconcilable anti-rate attitude in this County and there is reason to believe that no local efforts can possibly remedy this state of affairs. The local I.R.A. could not and probably would not cope with it as it is to be feared that many of its members are identified with the opposition to the payment of rates.90
The cost of this ‘expedition’ would be borne by a levy paid by defaulters on top of the rates due. Concerns about any possible breach of the Truce, then in operation, were dismissed and the operation was considered absolutely necessary to avert a complete collapse of local administration in the county.91 The plan was passed by the Dáil Cabinet and, in November, Chief of Staff Richard Mulcahy contacted Seán MacEoin (now commandant of the IRA’s Western Division).92 The proposed operation was an unrepresentative and exceptional response to an extreme situation but does highlight the importance placed on the department of defence in dealing with this type of defiance. The decision to send in outsiders is indicative both of local IRA opposition and the increased coercive value of the unknown enforcer.
Michael Farry has written about IRA interference in local government in Sligo, where members of the IRA repeatedly influenced appointments and elections to ensure that trustworthy republicans occupied positions of influence.93 Sligo was not unique and leading Volunteers Michael Brennan, Seán Wall, and Eoin O’Duffy asserted a similar influence on the councils in Clare, Limerick, and Monaghan respectively.94 But the extent to which the IRA could, or attempted to, influence local government varied. Marie Coleman, for instance, found minimal IRA interference in Longford.95 Much of the IRA’s interaction with local councils was characterised (like the ratepayers’) by self-interest. Tom Garvin connected ‘direct IRA interference in Sligo politics’ to ‘a fear of not getting a slice of the action in the form of local service jobs’.96 After the IRA collected £8,000 of rates in Sligo, they insisted on keeping £1,000 as payment (for a group of supposed ‘volunteers’) resulting in conflict with both the council and Dáil department.97 In early 1922, Sligo County Council proposed to strike a rate for the maintenance of the IRA in the county but Cosgrave rebuffed the ‘illegal’ rate.98 The ministry had, however, no objection to members of the IRA claiming against the rates for work lost when called up for duty.99 Garvin and Coleman have similarly pointed out that defiance of the Dáil’s cost-cutting hospital amalgamation scheme (in which some Volunteers were involved) was motivated by the very same vested interests and fear of lost employment.100
Local realities and the rate collection
There was no uniform policy formulated or implemented by the IRA hierarchy for dealing with the rate collection. Action authorised by Cosgrave’s department or GHQ was designed to meet unique circumstances at county or district level. Volunteers were, in theory at least, only allowed to act with the approval of GHQ. The Meath Brigade OC denied assistance to rate collectors hoping to make seizures against defaulters when approached directly by the county council chairman ‘as there was not even an order of court made out against the defaulters and hence he felt he would be taking instructions from a Local Govt Body if he sent on a detachment’. The IRA adjutant general (Gearóid O’Sullivan) noted that ‘Some arrangement must be made by which O/C’s will receive orders from the proper quarters’ and Cosgrave reminded the council chairman that the IRA ‘can be subject to no authority whatever save their own executive’.101 Similarly, in West Connemara, County Galway, the local OC reluctantly sent men to assist with the collection following a request from the Dáil inspector. When he asked if he had behaved correctly, the adjutant general accepted that ‘Your position was a very awkward one because it amounted to taking orders from a person not connected to the Army’. O’Sullivan believed ‘The payment of rates is a very important matter’ but complained to Mulcahy that ‘This is not the first time Inspectors from this Board [local government] have attempted to issue instructions to our forces. It must not be allowed to recur’; Mulcahy agreed and informed the minister for defence that ‘irregular action of this kind may create trouble, the fact that it is irregular tends to breed indiscipline and to blur the idea that each portion of the Government machinery has its own particular authority’.102 In reply, Cosgrave admitted that ‘the Inspector of this Department seems to have outstepped his duty’ and promised that the issue would be raised at a meeting of inspectors and definite instructions given.103 Soon after, the secretary of the county council observed that IRA assistance had been a ‘marked success for about three days when the O.C. withdrew the men on the grounds that instructions did not come from the proper quarters’. He argued it ‘would be a decided advantage if the assistance of the police or army could be enlisted for a short period’ and asked (with unrecorded result) ‘that representations be made to secure this object’.104 Such conflict over the use of the IRA for the rate collection can be seen as a neat example of wider conflict between the practitioners of the civil and military sides of the republican campaign.
Uniformity of application was always hard to achieve and Volunteers could step outside of the unity of the organisation to operate based on personal preference. In Queen’s County, a ‘serious report’ was made to the minister for home affairs when a court called to prosecute defaulting ratepayers was interrupted by ‘a man named Pender who said he was a Volunteer’. ‘The Justices were threatened and an attempt made to kill one of them.’105 Pender was also alleged to have called the wife of the court registrar ‘vile names’ in a language ‘one could only expect from an English soldier’ and the local court organiser believed that ‘a regular “Reign of Terror” exists in this part of the county owing to the action of the Penders’.106 In Limerick, where the IRA controlled the county council, the commandant of the West Limerick Brigade reported to Cosgrave that a charge was pending against a brigade officer for attending an anti-rates meeting in Glin, where a resolution was passed protesting against the heavy rate in the area, in his capacity as an IRA officer and signing the resolution using ‘the name and authority of the I.R.A.’107 Some members of the Leitrim IRA were actively opposed to the rate collection but in North Leitrim Cosgrave was promised the help of the local OC and one rate collector there reported that the Volunteers in his district had helpfully advised him to ask the Dáil inspector to attend an anti-rates meeting ‘As the opposition is growing daily both in number and determination’.108 In Ardara, County Donegal, James Gilven complained to Cosgrave that, on the one hand, ‘ratecollectors are intimidating the people by going around the country accompanied by I.R.A. forces threatening to take cattle and other goods unless this unjust rate is paid’ and, on the other, ‘members of the I.R.A. force were threatened to be sent to an unknown destination because they refused to serve Civil Bill Processes on their neighbours and relations for the recovery of these rates’.109 Cosgrave replied with a stern confirmation that ‘The Ministry for Local Government will not tolerate any opposition to the collection of rates, and will support any strong measures taken by Local Authorities to deal with such opposition.’110
Volunteers were both enforcers and opponents of the rate collection, indicating a revealing dichotomy within the organisation. In most other aspects of daily life, nonconformity was equated to hostility and regularly treated as such; those who defaulted on their rates or refused to collect them were considered by the ministry to be assisting the enemy. It was, then, surely serious that there was dissent within the organisation but nobody seems to have made this distinction or, if they did, it does not appear to have been voiced. Tom Garvin has suggested that even when Volunteers did enforce the collection they often did so reluctantly. Many were the sons of ratepayers or ratepayers themselves. Further, they ‘tended to have other things on their minds’.111 The OC in West Connemara, County Galway, who had ordered local Volunteers to assist with the collection in Carna, reported that ‘personally I do not think it is work that Volunteers should be detailed to do & I know the men do not like it. But I also believe that the payment of the rates is necessary for the successful function of our Local Government & it was for this reason I consented to give the men.’112 Rates had never been popular, particularly among farmers, and ‘in many counties the soldiers of the Republic had sympathy with the resistance to paying rates, even to the embattled republic’.113
The desire to avoid alienating the local population offered another potential motivation for opposing the collection. A collector in Leitrim was told by the registrar of the local republican court (an IRA officer) that the area’s Volunteers had decided to ‘give no assistance in the collection of rates … as they (the volunteers) did not want … the country against them’. The collector was to be allowed to make seizures but complained that when attempting to sell seized livestock to do so, had been forced, ‘on the strength of the volunteers’, to accept a portion of the payment with the promise of the balance ‘at a future date’, making the practice of seizing ‘almost absurd’.114 When local bodies of IRA operated in this way, there was very little the Dáil ministry or GHQ could do to reign them in.
The experiences of two rate collectors from different counties reveal the complexities of the rate collection. Hugh Dolan of Dowra, County Cavan, was appointed for the Enniskillen No. 2 Rural District, which fell under the administration of Cavan County Council. He had received the unanimous backing of the council in his appointment despite tendering for a higher fee than his competitors. Friends of the defeated candidates soon ‘endeavoured and partly succeeded in creating a certain prejudice against Mr. Dolan, and hampered very much his work as Collector’. One of the ringleaders had, in fact, paid his and others’ rates directly to the secretary of the council rather than handing them to Dolan. ‘The present situation is that the Collection of Rates in this District is practically at a stand-still’, wrote the council’s secretary, ‘the majority seemingly only too pleased to take advantage of the opposition offered to escape their liabilities for the present at least’.115 At a county council meeting in August, a petition calling for Dolan’s dismissal had been presented and it was decided to bring the matter before Cosgrave to obtain whatever support was necessary to allow Dolan to continue his work.116 By late October it was feared that the collection would remain unfinished in Enniskillen No. 2. In November the council proposed to send a ‘Special Commissioner’ to Dolan’s aid but Cosgrave insisted the ministry were unable to understand the need for such action as ‘if the Rate Collector utilises the powers he already possesses he should be quite able to complete the Collection’.117
Finding his authority inadequate, Dolan soon enlisted the persuasive powers of the IRA. On 27 November, the OC of the neighbouring South Fermanagh Brigade visited the two figureheads of the opposition and compelled them to sign a declaration that they would pay their rates on or before 6 December. Dolan intended to summon the others to a republican arbitration court.118 Outsiders were brought in not only for the added fear of the unknown, but also for local political reasons. The anti-rates body in the area, Dolan alleged, had founded a local Sinn Féin Club that was ‘in reality simply a means of furthering their work against him’. The club secretary was one of the two ringleaders and the treasurer was Edward Scanlon. Scanlon, ‘though a District Councillor and a Volunteer’, was refusing to pay his rates and claiming he would pay when everyone else did.119 But in spite of some more minor trouble over the costs of summons to the local Dáil court, the action against the anti-rates body in Dolan’s district eventually paid off. In February, it was reported that he was about to close his collection for the six-month period ending October 1921 and he attributed the ‘break-down of opposition … partly to action taken from Sinn Fein Headquarters with regard to a local club – Dubally – and partly to help which he himself obtained from Members of the I.R.A. belonging to a neighbouring county’.120
T. J. Quinn was a long-serving rate collector in Gort, County Galway, and like Dolan became subject to local opposition and personal enmity, but for quite different reasons. Sometime before mid-July 1921, Quinn was fired at and wounded by ‘unknown men’ and applied to a British court for £2,000 compensation. The Dáil inspector received conflicting reports on his character:
One [informant] thinks the reason personal enmity, another agrarian trouble, the third because he is reported as having entertained the [Black and Tans]. It is hard to get the truth of the matter. It is also said that he sent to a certain house for poteen for B’s and T’s. Two of my informants say he is not Republican, third says he is sympathetic. One described him as ‘a cute loyalist and twister’ … I was speaking to him today in Union, but was not aware of fact at time. Discussing peace prospects he gave me the impression he was Republican, but I believe he is as plausible as are made [sic]. On the whole he apparently is not trusted locally.
Quinn had previously come to the attention of the IRA when he was taken to a republican court and fined for asking publicans not to comply with an IRA order to close early.121 On 21 July 1921, Quinn wrote to Cosgrave asking for instructions, pointing out that ‘the public decision appears to be to pay no rates – I have seen notices pasted up here to that effect, and as you may know “it is a popular cry not to pay” … There is a general strike against the payment of rates’.122 In August 1921, he complained in detail to both Cosgrave and Éamonn Duggan, chief liaison officer during the Truce, about the unfair treatment he had suffered, most notably at the hands of the IRA:
A grave injustice has been inflicted not only on me by depriving me of my poundage fees, but, also on the ratepayers as both moieties will now come in one slap on them … Why I am singled out for special attack, I fail to understand – The Sub Sherriff of Galway, a Unionist Rate Collector tells me he can get the Volunteers to assist him in collecting rates and that my district is not properly organised. Why it looks so much like malice and jealousy in my case? The public are talking of the ill treatment meted out considering all I have done to save people from disaster. – If made a general rule, throughout the Country, I should not complain, Mr De Valera said quite recently that the I.R.A. were subject to the Civil Population, that is not so here apparently. It is not fair play to rule me with the Military sword considering the terms of the truce.123
It soon became clear why members of the IRA might be opposed to Quinn. When collecting the first half of the rates in 1920, he had requested and received the assistance of the local Volunteers but for the second collection ‘went for the assistance of the R.I.C. and ignored the Volunteers’. Further, while receiving treatment in a Dublin hospital (presumably after he was shot at and wounded) he received a wire from a man in Gort that was subsequently found on the body of an RIC district inspector, killed during the Ballyturin ambush, implying he had passed information to the police.124 The minister for defence (Cathal Brugha) admitted that ‘our people should not have acted in this matter without instructions’ with the caveat that ‘when a person of the type of T. J. Quinn is allowed to remain as Ratecollector under a Republican Council, Republican forces are tempted to take things into their own hands’.125
At the same time, the OC of the South Galway IRA wrote to the county council secretary to outline the brigade officers’ decision that ‘under no circumstances can T. J. Quinn be ever again allowed to collect rates in this area. The reason for this decision is that this man, at a critical point in the War, was guilty, to a very serious degree, of Association with the Enemy’. Full IRA assistance would be provided to a collector who ‘meets with the approval of the Republican Authorities’. The alternative was to hand the books over to the Galway Brigade who would ‘see that the full rates are handed into your Council’.126 Remarkably, the chairman of the county council’s finance committee was not in favour of sacking Quinn (‘It is an unfortunate time to change collectors and money is very badly needed’) and when Quinn did leave in November 1921, the Dáil ministry noted that it would be unfair to refuse him a pension: evidence of the very different priorities operating between military and civil authorities.127
In an April 1922 report, Cosgrave paid the following tribute to the IRA:
The Department willingly and gratefully acknowledges the value and importance of the various services rendered Local Government by the Army, and frankly acknowledges that the success which attended local government administration depended on the help so rendered.128
The success (if incomplete and inconsistent) of IRA cooperation in the rate collection re-emphasises the coercive power of the gunman in Irish communal life at this time. Following anti-rates agitation in Clonbur, County Galway, where the collector and local magistrates were intimidated by organised crowds, Cosgrave notified the minister for defence that the serious situation developing in the area could be ‘nipped in the bud if drastic action is taken by your Department such as has been taken in other districts with success’.129 Within a few days it was reported that ‘very little further opposition to the payment of rates in the Clonbur District’ was to be expected.130 Even if, as Tom Garvin has stated, the IRA ‘felt that they had far better things to be doing than enforce an unpopular levy’ both they and the weaker republican police were regularly at the heart of the rate collection.131 They may or may not have agreed with it, but they often followed their orders and carried out raids, seizures, and kidnappings; they ran courts that summoned and decreed against defaulters. The army’s role in the rate collection is simultaneously evidence of the difficult relationship between the civil and military campaigns and brings into question any assumption of a blanket unity of purpose across the republican army, as IRA leaders and local government administrators clashed over its status and use and members stepped outside of the organisation to protest or agitate against the rates.
Parallels can be drawn with other forms of social coercion carried out by the IRA – such as the RIC boycott examined in Chapter 1 – and its success depended to a large extent on the willingness of the local council to pursue strong measures, the strength of the local IRA and their desire to act, and the power of parish and district republican courts to prosecute and enforce decrees.
One notable difference is the lack of violence; while violence was threatened and implied, there do not seem to be any definite cases where rate defaulters were shot for their refusal to pay. A statement issued by Dublin Castle suggested that Thomas Shannon had been shot in Kilrush, County Clare after he had ‘tried to sever his connection with Sinn Fein’ and ‘demurred’ paying rates to a ‘Sinn Fein’ collector ‘as he might have to pay them again to the legally appointed officers of the Crown’, but other reports on the killing remained inconclusive about the perpetrator or the motivation.132 Many of those politically opposed to the collection, of course, paid quietly and unobtrusively. A circular from Kerry County Council, for instance, considered that ‘the citizens of this country who did not see eye to eye with their Republican fellow-countrymen deserve credit for their punctuality in paying their rates last year’.133 Unlike the police boycott, there was also a significant portion of the IRA who sympathised with the opposition to payment of rates and, just as their colleagues coerced neighbours into paying, they encouraged them not to. In this case, opposition does not always imply disloyalty towards the separatist government, but was often simply a case of embattled ratepayers trying to hold on to their cash in a time of economic depression. There were many reasons for defaulting and many means employed to overcome it, but the rates question was never adequately solved and remained a troubling issue for the leaders of local government throughout 1922.
1 For a succinct summary of the takeover of local administration, see Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish life, pp. 154–7.
2 BMH WS 501 (T. J. McArdle).
3 Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish life, pp. 157–60.
4 BMH WS 501 (T. J. McArdle).
5 Tom Garvin, 1922: The birth of Irish democracy (Dublin, 1996), p. 74.
6 See Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish life, pp. 154–64; Garvin, 1922, pp. 63–91, esp. 73–7. For local government as described in other county studies, see Farry, The aftermath of revolution, pp. 19–35; Coleman, County Longford and the Irish revolution, pp. 89–111.
7 Garvin, 1922, p. 72.
8 Revd Robert C. Wade claim (TNA: CO 762/23/9).
9 Arthur E. Gick to Chief Secretary, 27 Sep. 1921 (NAI: DELG 13/11).
10 Impartial Reporter, 9 Feb. 1922. Colonel Peacocke was alleged to be the leader of a loyalist ‘Anti-Sinn Féin Society’ in West Cork. He was shot by the IRA in May 1921 and the family home, Skevanish House in Innishannon, was burned the following month.
11 Farry, The aftermath of revolution, p. 20; Coleman, County Longford and the Irish revolution, p. 94.
12 BMH WS 501 (T. J. McArdle).
13 Patrick Corbett to Secretary, Galway County Council, 17 Jan. 1922 (NAI: DELG 11/23).
14 Secretary, Monaghan County Council to Cosgrave, 6 May 1921 (DELG 23/14).
15 O’Duffy to CS, 27 May 1921 (UCDA: P7/A/22). For a full survey of O’Duffy’s role in the conflict and influence on Monaghan County Council, see Fearghal McGarry, Eoin O’Duffy: a self-made hero (Oxford, 2005), pp. 25–73.
16 Impartial Reporter, 9 Feb. 1922.
17 Jeremiah O’Mahoney to Cork County Council, 28 Sep. 1921 (NAI: DELG 6/44).
18 Philip McLaughlin to Cosgrave, 27 Oct. 1921 (7/22).
19 Patrick McCorriston to Cosgrave, 24 Sep. 1921 (7/22).
20 J. MacAsey to Cosgrave, 16 Oct. 1921 (13/11).
21 RIC Breaches of the Truce, Donegal (TNA: CO 904/151).
22 Seán Duffy to Minister for Home Affairs, 1 Oct. 1921 (MAI: BMH CD/210/4/1).
23 Dunne to Chief of Inspection, 3 Aug. 1921 (NAI: DELG 15/11).
24 Sean s. O’Coilean to Cosgrave, 20 Oct. 1921 (7/22). The increased results secured by sending ‘strangers’ from outside the area was also pointed out.
25 Registrar, East Cavan District Court to Stack, forwarded to Cosgrave, 5 Nov. 1921 (4/13).
26 Dáil Inspector’s report, Cavan, Oct. 1921 (4/13).
27 Garvin, 1922, p. 70.
28 ‘Report re Dublin County Rates’, n.d.; Minutes, Dublin County Council, 6 August 1921 (NAI: DELG 9/18).
29 Sean s. O’Coilean to Cosgrave, 20 Oct. 1921 (7/22).
30 John Doran, County Kerry to Secretary, Kerry County Council, 24 Oct. 1921 (12/16).
31 M. O’Shea, County Kerry to Secretary, Kerry County Council, 24 Oct. 1921; ‘Sec Glenflesk Club’ to Secretary, Kerry County Council (12/16).
32 Inspector for Monaghan to [?]Chief of Inspection, 11 May 1921 (23/14).
33 DELG report to Diarmuid O’Hegarty, c.Feb. 1921 (DÉ 2/155).
34 Report on Meeting of Monaghan County Council, unsigned, 30 Sep. 1921 (DELG 23/14).
35 BMH WS 501 (T. J. McArdle).
36 LGB circular to rate collectors, 11 Nov. 1920 (NAI: DÉ 2/155).
37 BMH WS 501 (T. J. McArdle). Extracts from the circular were published in an article in the Evening News and reproduced in the police propaganda newspaper The Weekly Summary, 7 Jan. 1921. The article claimed that the ‘phraseology indicates that the revolutionary government is in serious financial difficulties’.
38 For discussion of these issues, see copies of minutes of meetings of county councils (NAI: DELG).
39 Minutes, Dublin County Council, 20 Jan. 1921 (9/18).
40 Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish life, p. 161.
41 BMH WS 501 (T. J. McArdle).
42 Adjourned meeting of Westmeath County Council, 25 Nov. 1920 (NAI: DELG 30/11).
43 BMH WS 501 (T. J. McArdle).
44 BMH WS 501 (T. J. McArdle).
45 Mark Sturgis diary, 24 Dec. 1920 (TNA: PRO 30/59/3).
46 Temporary CI, Kerry to Daniel Mulvihill, 1 Dec. 1921. Mulvihill argued that the alleged offender ‘did not use any threats’ and received a reply stating that ‘If the H.C. has not paid his rates there is a legal method of compelling him to do so without subjecting him to interference in public from an irresponsible youth’ (UCDA: P64/7 (35)).
47 See, for example, BMH WS 501 (T. J. McArdle); Circular from O’Higgins, 30 Dec. 1920 (NLI: MS 11,404).
48 O’Higgins to Chairman, Dublin County Council, 15 Feb. 1921 (NAI: DELG 9/18). O’Higgins had previously suggested cutting off the water, gas, and other services as a ‘last resort’: O’Higgins to Secretary, Dublin County Council, 14 Feb. 1921 (9/18). A similar suggestion was made, but not carried out, in Limerick: ‘Particulars of Rates in Limerick Boro Council’, 18 Apr. 1921 (17/5).
49 Arthur E. Gick to Chief Secretary, 27 Sep. 1921 (13/11).
50 John Minion claim (TNA: CO 762/186/9).
51 BMH WS 501 (T. J. McArdle).
52 BMH WS 1072 (Seán McNamara); BMH WS 1288 (Michael Gleeson).
53 MCRs, CI, Clare, Mar. 1921 (TNA: CO 904/114).
54 Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish life, p. 161; BMH WS 501 (T. J. McArdle).
55 Minutes, Sligo County Council, 11 Dec. 1920 (NAI: DELG 26/9).
56 BMH WS 501 (T. J. McArdle). Seized books were returned to Sligo County Council in Jan. 1922 (NAI: DELG 26/9).
57 O’Higgins to Secretary, Roscommon County Council, 19 Oct. 1920 (DELG 25/11).
58 O’Higgins to Acting Chairman, Roscommon County Council, 20 Dec. 1920 (25/11). Jordan later took legal action against the council on the grounds that he had signed two cheques to the county council ‘under duress’.
59 Minutes, Sligo County Council, 24 Sep. 1921 (26/9)
60 Inspector, Sligo, 16 Nov. 1921 (26/9).
61 Report by James McIntyre, King’s County, attached to letter from J. Bulfin, 23 Jul. 1921 (15/11).
62 Breaches of the Truce, Westmeath (TNA: CO 904/156A).
63 Breaches of the Truce, Kerry (/153).
64 Abraham Watchorn claim; Robert Watchorn claim (PRONI: D989/B/3/13).
65 James O’Rourke to Mulcahy, 6 Dec. 1921 (MAI: LE/5). The RIC contended that this was a breach of the Truce while O’Rourke maintained he was not overstepping his duty as collector.
66 Garvin, 1922, p. 75
67 Breaches of the Truce, Kerry (TNA: CO 904/153); Reports on Dillon family, Nov. 1921 (UCDA: P64/7 (27), (28), (29)). A family dog was also shot by the republican police who visited the Dillons, apparently after it was set on them.
68 E. J. O’Doherty to J. E. Dalton, 30 Nov. 1921 (MAI: LE/4/16B).
69 MCRs, IG, Oct. 1921 (TNA: CO 904/116).
70 Breaches of the Truce, Leitrim (/153).
71 Inspector, Monaghan, 12 Oct. 1921 (NAI: DELG 23/14).
72 Seán Duffy to Minister for Home Affairs, 1 Oct. 1921 (MAI: BMH CD/210/4/1).
73 See Breaches of the Truce files (TNA: CO 904/153-156A).
74 Clerks’ reports, Arles, Graighuecullen, Doonane, Oct. 1921 (MAI: BMH CD/210/5/1).
75 Impartial Reporter, 17 Feb. 1921.
76 Inspector’s report, Queen’s County, 2 Jan. 1922 (NAI: DELG 24/7). See also, Clerks’ reports, Arles, Graighuecullen, Doonane, Oct. 1921 (MAI: BMH CD/210/5/1).
77 James Brennan to Secretary, Queen’s County Council, 23 Mar. 1922 (DELG 24/7).
78 See, for example, correspondence in Dáil courts files (NAI: DECC/11/12; 13/1; 13/5).
79 Cosgrave to Stack, 10 November 1921 with enclosed extracts from reports of Dáil Inspector, Kerry (NAI: DELG 12/16).
80 Clerk, District Court, North Kerry to stack, 19 Nov. 1921 (12/16).
81 Inspector’s report, Leitrim, 18 Jun. 1921 (16/9).
82 Inspector’s report, Leitrim, 27 Jul. 1921 (16/9).
83 See correspondence on Leitrim County Council (16/9).
84 [Chief of Inspection?] to [DELG?], 7 Oct. 1921 (16/9).
85 Aughavas Rate Payers Association to Stack (16/9).
86 [Chief of Inspection?] to [DELG?], 7 Oct. 1921 (16/9).
87 W. Guckian to Inspector, 18 Oct. 1921 (16/9).
88 Garvin, 1922, p. 76.
89 Inspector’s report, Leitrim, 7 Oct. 1920 (NAI: DÉ 2/466).
90 ‘Memo on condition of Rate Collection in County Leitrim to show the need for extraordinary methods in this County’, 10 Oct. 1921 (NAI: DELG 16/9). See also Dáil records (DÉ 2/466) and correspondence in Mulcahy Papers (UCDA: P7/A/29).
91 ‘Memo on condition of Rate Collection in County Leitrim’, 10 Oct. 1921 (NAI: DELG 16/9).
92 Mulcahy to Cosgrave, 16 Nov. 1921 (16/9). MacEoin promised the cooperation of the OC of the North Leitrim Brigade.
93 Farry, The aftermath of revolution, pp. 27–30.
94 Brennan was chairman of Clare County Council. For Wall’s influence, see BMH WS 680 (John O’Dwyer) and for O’Duffy’s, McGarry, Eoin O’Duffy, p. 50.
95 Coleman, County Longford and the Irish revolution, p. 101.
96 Garvin, 1922, p. 82.
97 Farry, The aftermath of revolution, pp. 20–1.
98 Minutes, Sligo County Council, 4 Mar. 1922; Cosgrave to Secretary, Sligo County Council, 5 Apr. 1922 (NAI: DELG 26/9).
99 See response to Chairman of Road Committee, Westmeath County Council, 6 Dec. 1921 (UCDA: P7/A/35).
100 Garvin, 1922, p. 81; Coleman, County Longford and the Irish revolution, p. 98.
101 AG to CS, forwarded to Cosgrave with handwritten note, n.d. [Sep. 1920?] (NAI: DELG 22/17). Mulcahy was similarly worried that trouble could arise if judges and others were not clear on this point: Cosgrave to Chairman, Meath County Council, 25 Sep. 1920 (22/17).
102 OC West Connemara to AG, 20 Oct. 1921; AG to OC West Connemara, 21 Oct. 1921; AG to CS, 21 Oct. 1921; CS to MD, 24 Oct. 1921 (UCDA: P7/A/30).
103 Cosgrave to CS, 1 Nov. 1921 (/30).
104 J. L. S. to ?, 29 Oct. 1921 (NAI: DELG 11/23).
105 Seán Duffy to MHA, 15 Nov. 1921 (MAI: BMH CD/210/4/1).
106 Seán Duffy to MHA, 19 Nov. 1921, 29 Nov. 1921 (/210/4/1).
107 OC West Limerick Brigade to Cosgrave, 16 Dec. 1921 (NAI: DELG 17/15).
108 Charles Flynn to Inspector, Leitrim, 12 Nov. 1921 (16/9).
109 James Gilven to Cosgrave n.d. [Dec. 1921?] (7/22).
110 Cosgrave to Gilven, n.d. [Dec. 1921?] (7/22).
111 Garvin, 1922, p. 69.
112 OC West Connemara to AG, 20 Oct. 1921 (UCDA: P7/A/30).
113 Garvin, 1922, p. 74.
114 McMorrow, County Leitrim to Dáil Inspetor, Leitrim, 13 Oct. 1921 (NAI: DELG 16/9).
115 William Finlay (secretary, Cavan County Council) to Cosgrave, 16 Aug. 1921 (4/13).
116 Minutes, Cavan County Council, 10 Aug. 1921 (4/13).
117 Finlay to Cosgrave, 24 Oct. 1921; Minutes, Finance Committee, Cavan County Council, 9 Nov. 1921; Cosgrave to Finlay, 29 Nov. 1921 (4/13).
118 Inspector, Cavan to Chief of Inspection, 2 Dec. 1921 (4/13).
119 Inspector’s report, Cavan, forwarded by Cosgrave to Secretary, Sinn Féin, 5 Dec. 1921 (4/13).
120 Inspector’s report, Cavan, 20 Feb. 1922 (4/13).
121 Inspector’s report, Galway, 15 Jul. 1921 (11/23).
122 Thomas Quinn to Cosgrave, 21 Jul. 1921 (4/13).
123 Quinn to Cosgrave, 7 Aug. 1921; Quinn to Duggan, 8 Aug. 1921 (4/13). The portion quoted above is from the letter to Duggan.
124 1st Battalion, South West Galway Brigade to [DELG?], 12 Aug. 1921 (4/13).
125 Brugha to Cosgrave, 25 Aug. 1921 (4/13).
126 OC South Galway to Secretary, Galway County Council, 28 Nov. 1921 (4/13).
127 Chairman, Galway County Council Finance Committee to [?], 3 Sep. 1921; [Cosgrave?] to Brugha, 28 Nov. 1921 (4/13).
128 BMH WS 501 (T. J. McArdle).
129 Cosgrave to Brugha, 15 Nov. 1921 (NAI: DELG 11/23).
130 L.E. O’Dea to Secretary, Galway County Council, 17 Nov. 1921, forwarded to Cosgrave, 21 Nov. 1921 (11/23).
131 Garvin, 1922, p. 74.
132 Impartial Reporter, 7 Apr. 1921; Irish Examiner, 30 May 1921; Freeman’s Journal, 1 Jun. 1921.
133 Notice from Kerry County Council to ‘Ratepayers and General Public’, Kerry County Council, (NAI: DELG 12/16).