At two in the morning on Sunday the 15th of May 1921 the nights silence was broken around Rosslare Harbour when the local RIC barracks was attacked by members of the Tagoat company, South Wexford Brigade IRA . The attackers concentrated their rifle fire on the building and the police inside responded with their own. Despite the intensity of the brief conflict no casualties were reported, except one of the police, who received what was described as a splinter. Contemporary newspaper accounts described the attack as daring due to the scarcity of cover near the building. Its isolated position is illustrated on the 1905 ordinance survey map. The barrack building was described as being modern at the time, as well as ‘strong and substantial’. Up to ten years prior it had been in the occupation of the owner, a Mrs. Mary Allen.
A year before the attack in June 1920 Mrs Allen had lodged an appeal in court against the possession of her house, known as Ailsa Lodge; the police had taken up residence in February 1918. It was raised against her that the usual right to terminate a tenancy after six months did not apply in this case because the building was utilized as a police barracks rather that a private renting; there was difficulty in obtaining an alternative barrack premises, while it was also located near an important port and coastguard station.
Following the attack on the barracks a mixed party of military and police proceeded to the house of Adam Jones who was accused of participating in the attack . Jones had served in the British army previously, including during the War for a period. When they arrived at his home in Mauritiustown he was found in bed and a subsequent inspection of his clothes found they were wet, smelled of sea salt and had sand on them. A single shotgun cartridge was also found in one of his coat pockets. The authorities claimed to have found fresh footprints leading from the sea shore up to Jone’s house.
In the court case that followed Jone’s defendant argued against the evidence stating that the cartridge found was of a regular type which was readily available and could be easily bought by anyone. Meanwhile the tracks it was argued could belong to anyone as no further attempt was taken to record additional details such a shoe size; they could have belonged to someone looking after cattle that where in the same field or someone who was simply crossing it for travel. Furthermore in his defense Jones said his clothes were dirty from tending cattle and he found the cartridge previously in the golf links while walking home from Rosslare.
Following the case he was found not guilty of ‘levying war by taking part in an attack on his majesty’s forces’ but was found guilty regarding procession of ammunition and was sentenced to three years penal servitude.
The old RIC barracks still stands in Rosslare today but is now a private residence. In the South Wexford Brigade Activity reports a sketch plan was provided which illustrates the position the attackers took. The isolated position of the barracks is obvious and the attackers took up position in a line behind the western boundary of the site. Those who took part were named as Patrick Mythen, Adam Jones, John O’ Reilly, Phil O’ Reilly, Dan Walsh, James Rowe and William Barry,
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New Ross Standard, 5th March 1920, p5
Enniscorthy Guardian, 2nd July 1921, p2
New Ross Standard, 15th July 1921, p4
New Ross Standard, 20th May 1921, p4
South Wexford Brigade Activity Reports