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Ambush and reprisal

Wednesday, 15th July, 2020 11:00am
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Ambush and reprisal

ONLY a wall and the tower left standing: Tuam Town Hall after the sack. Photo: Old Tuam Society archive

Ambush and reprisal

ONLY a wall and the tower left standing: Tuam Town Hall after the sack. Photo: Old Tuam Society archive

By Jarlath Deignan

A CENTURY ago, in 1920, Sinn Féin’s policy of undermining British authority and running an alternate state was best exemplified by the setting up of republican courts to adjudicate on parish disputes.

Such courts began to emerge throughout the country in 1919 and were essential in demonstrating the party’s commitment to law and order, particularly in rural areas that were now unpoliced. Austin Stack, Home Affairs minister in the Dáil, introduced a formal scheme of organisation of the courts in June 1920 which saw the creation of district courts.

The first sitting of the North Galway district court took place at the Town Hall in Tuam on Monday July 12, 1920, with IRA members acting as republican police at the court. Professor Joseph Whelehan was appointed chairman and with four other adjudicators sat at a table draped with the republican colours.

Whelehan opened proceedings by stating: ‘I formally declare the Republican Court open to do justice, for upholding truth and suppressing wrong for the glory of God and the honour of Ireland’. The first case to be heard involved a dispute between a building contractor in Tuam and a local man relating to an outstanding payment.

Read the full feature in this week's edition of The Tuam Herald, on sale in shops and online at www.tuamherald.ie

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