On Tuesday the 10th of May 1921 the nights silence was broken in the town of Enniscorthy by the sudden and unexpected sound of gunfire. At approximately 10:30p.m. the town’s RIC barracks located in the Abbey Square came under fire. Contemporary newspaper accounts reported that few people were on the street at the time, but those who were quickly sought refuge in premises nearest to them. Those inside their own homes were equally scared about the possibility of a stray bullet finding its way inside and many sought refuge in their back kitchens.
The gunfire was directed at the barracks from the ‘Turrent Rocks’, a high point upon a rocky eminence on the opposite side of the river Slaney. The police were inside the barracks at the time and upon hearing the sound of bullets ricocheting off the buildings wall quickly returned fire. Meanwhile, soldiers stationed in the town’s courthouse came to the aid of the police upon hearing of the attack, directing machine gun fire on their attackers position which was visible due to the fire from their guns. The entire incident lasted for about 15 minutes and ceased shortly after the machine gun fire began. Following the incident there was increased police and military activity in the area. Bullet holes were visible on neighboring buildings the following morning, as well as the wall which the attackers were supposed to have taken cover behind.
The operation was under taken by 12 members of F (Shannon) Company of the 2nd Battalion, North Wexford Brigade IRA. Incidents such as this were common during the period and were known as ‘sniping’, involving a brief or sort period of gunfire concentrated on a building, usually police barracks. The aim was not so much to capture the building but to harras it’s inhabitants, with the potential to inflict injury also.
Enniscorthy RIC Barracks
The former RIC barracks in Enniscorthy was the most easterly building on the southern side of the Abbey Square. From contemporary photos it can seen as a strong built three story structure with windows to the front and side of the building. During the time of the attack is was most likely fortified with sandbags and steel window shutters. The building was demolished sometime later in the 20th century and the site is today used as a car park.
Enniscorthy Guardian, 14th May 1921, p5
North Wexford Brigade Activity Reports