Black and Tans

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The Black and Tans (Irish: Dúchrónaigh) was one of two newly recruited bodies, composed largely of British World War I veterans, employed by the Royal Irish Constabulary as Temporary Constables from 1920 to 1921 to suppress revolution in Ireland. Although it was established to target the Irish Republican Army, it became notorious through its numerous attacks on the Irish civilian population.

However, the term Black and Tans is sometimes used to refer to the RIC Auxiliary Division.[1]



The late 19th and early 20th centuries in Ireland were dominated by the Irish pursuit of Home Rule or independence from the United Kingdom. Home Rule — limited self government — was passed by the British parliament in 1914, but postponed because of the outbreak of the First World War. Some Irish republicans saw Home Rule as being too limited a form of independence. After the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916 when armed Irish nationalists staged a rebellion against British rule of Ireland, Irish nationalism was greatly radicalized and after public outrage at the show trials and executions of the rising's leaders and the threatened imposition of conscription on Ireland for the First World War, it was channeled into the revolutionary Sinn Féin movement. Sinn Féin won 73 out of 105 seats in Ireland at the 1918 general election, and in January 1919 the First Dáil declared an independent Irish Republic. In the same month, the Irish Volunteers, or Irish Republican Army, began the guerrilla campaign known as Irish War of Independence, which in 1919 consisted of attacks on the Royal Irish Constabulary.

These attacks escalated during 1919 and in September the British administration outlawed the Dáil. Starting work on its next Home Rule Act, it had to plan for a growing loss of morale in the RIC with an interim solution until the Act was ready.

In January 1920, the British government started advertising in British cities for men willing to "face a rough and dangerous task", helping to boost the ranks of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) in policing an increasingly anti-British Ireland. There was no shortage of recruits, many of them First World War army veterans, and by November 1921 about 9,500 men had joined. This sudden influx of men led to a shortage of RIC uniforms, and the new recruits were issued with khaki army uniforms (usually only trousers) and dark green RIC or blue British police surplus tunics, caps and belts. These uniforms differentiated them from the Army and the Regular RIC, and gave rise to the force's nickname: Christopher O'Sullivan wrote in the Limerick Echo on 25 March 1920 that, meeting a group of recruits on a train at Limerick Junction, the attire of one reminded him of the Scarteen Hunt, whose "Black and Tans" nickname derived from the coloration of its Kerry Beagles.[2] Ennis comedian Mike Nono elaborated the joke in Limerick's Theatre Royal, and the nickname soon took hold,[2] persisting even after the men received full RIC uniforms.

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