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RIC Barracks

Click here to enlarge. RIC Barracks at the Ulster Folk and Transport MuseumYou’d better be on your best behaviour when you visit the RIC barracks!  The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) came out of the earlier Constabulary Police Force of 1822 and dates from 1836, when the police service of four provincial forces was unified under one central command. The title ‘Royal’ was granted in 1867 and the Royal Irish Constabulary continued as one body until the partition of Ireland in 1922, when it was succeeded by the Garda Síochána and the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Early police recruits had to be single and between 19 and 27 years of age, had to be able to read and write and be of good moral character. Policemen were expected to remain sober and attend church regularly; to live in barracks, and to serve at least seven years before seeking permission to marry. No policeman was allowed to serve in his native county, or, if he married, in his wife's native county.

Although efforts were made to make the force reflect the population, by 1860 some 70% of recruits were Catholic and 30% Protestant. By 1914 this had become 81% and 19% respectively. The police were well paid, which made it an attractive career for many younger sons who could not expect to inherit the family farm and would otherwise have had to emigrate to find work.

Although they generally led a relatively quiet life, considerable police time was spent suppressing the illegal distillation of alcohol (poteen-making).  After 1871, dealing with unlicensed dogs became a priority. In the 1840s, Ireland had the highest level of rabies in Europe, but thanks largely to the enforcement of dog licencing laws, and dealing with strays, the disease was eradicated by 1901.

Original location: Castle Street (formerly Bow Lane), Antrim, County Antrim