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Group recruited to Ireland to suppress the IRA

(Irish News)

The first group of 'Black and Tans' arrived in Ireland in March 1920 after answering adverts from the British government for men willing to "face a rough and dangerous task".

More properly called the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, its task was to suppress the IRA.

The Black and Tans were mostly posted in the south and west of Ireland, with the first deployment in March 1920.

With the First World War just over and the promise of 10 shillings a day pay, there was no shortage of recruits and by November 1921 around 9,500 men had joined.

The sudden influx to the ranks of the RIC led to a shortage of uniforms, so the new recruits were issued with khaki army uniforms and dark green RIC or blue British police surplus tunics, caps and belts.

As a result of this multi-coloured mixture, they were nicknamed 'Black and Tans'.

With just three months police training, the Black and Tans were tasked with strengthening the military at police posts, guard duties, crowd control and mounting a campaign against the IRA, led by Michael Collins, left. They earned a reputation for brutality along the way.

The worst attack on the public came at a football match at Croke Park in Dublin in November 1920.

In retaliation for the murder of 14 undercover detectives by the IRA, the Black and Tans opened fire on the crowd, killing 12 people. More than a third of the Black and Tans died or left the service before they it was disbanded along with the rest of the RIC in 1922.

August 8, 2006

This article appeared first in the November 19, 2005 edition of the Irish News.

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