Martial Law Declared in Wexford

In early January 1921 county Wexford, together with Clare, Waterford and Kilkenny, were placed under Martial law. This was a response by the British military to the increase in IRA activity over the preceding year. Its imposition gave the military additional powers, imposing strict new rules with penalties for people who did not abide by them, including a potential ‘Death Sentence’ for anyone found in unlawful possession of a firearm.

Martial Law Proclamation printed in the Enniscorthy Guardian 15th January 1921, p3

A proclamation was circulated detailing the new rules and penalties for non compliance. These included the following

  • An ultimatum to surrender arms, ammunitions and explosives was given until the 11th of January 1921. Anyone found in possession of such after this date would be liable to conviction by a military court to suffer death
  • The unauthorized wearing of military or police uniform was also liable to conviction by military court to suffer death. Possession of the same would result in the person being convicted and sentenced to penal servitude.
  • A state of insurrection existed and anyone found taking part in such, or harboring those who had, would be liable to conviction by a military court to suffer death.
  • The owner, lessee or responsible occupier of every building is required to keep a list of occupants inside detailing their name, age, sex and occupation and to keep this updated.
  • Meetings and assemblies in public places were forbidden. This constituted a group of more than 6 people.
  • No unauthorized telegrams were to be sent and the use of carrier pigeons or wireless telegraphs was forbidden.
  • No loitering in the public streets without exception i.e. work.
Home of the Doyle Brothers at Auburn Terrace, Wexford. Note the Martial law proclamation in the window left of the doorway and the Irish tricolor placed above it in defiance.

Copies of the Martial Law proclamation were printed and displayed in various locations throughout the county. It was forbidden to deface these and anyone found removing or interfering with one was liable to be convicted and punished. Some were purposely placed in locations to antagonize known republicans. An example of this exists from Wexford town where a proclamation was placed in the front window of the Doyle family home in Auburn Terrace. The Doyle brothers owned Selskar Iron Works, now located were Dunnes Stores is. In 1914 they refused orders for British war production. They also sheltered many volunteers on the run and manufactured guns, bullets and hand grenade casings in their foundry. On several occasions their home and business was to be burned by crown forces but thanks to the discreet warnings of RIC constable sergeant Collopy they escaped such a faith. Their home was frequently raided by the police and military also. Knowing that they could not tamper with the Proclamation, as it would result in a possible conviction, they placed the Irish tricolour above it in the same window. A silent and symbolic defiance.


The information regarding the Doyle family and the accompanying photo was soucred from Sthe book County Wexford in the Rare Oul’ Times 1910-1924 by Nicholas Fulong and John Hayes, p127

Enniscorthy Guardian 15th January 1921, p3

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