Only policeman to die violently between 1916 and War of Independence killed by future garda

The young revolutionary who killed the only policeman to die violently between 1916 and the War of Independence later became an early member of An Garda Síochána, a police researcher has found.

Only policeman to die violently between 1916 and War of Independence killed by future garda

Ahead of the centenary of the death of Dublin Metropolitan Police inspector John Mills in June 1917, plans are in place to bring together his family and relatives of the man who killed him with a hurley.

Inspector Mills was in charge of a police operation to break up a Sinn Féin meeting outside the old Irish Citizen Army headquarters at Liberty Hall, destroyed in the 1916 Rising. As officers led away the speakers, Count George Plunkett and Cathal Brugha, the crowd tried to liberate the pair and the Co Westmeath-born policeman was hit in the back of the head.

Despite being taken to Jervis Street Hospital, he died the next day on June 11.

A young cab driver was later charged but the case collapsed, and it has long been said that a young man named Edward Murray was the culprit.

Jim Herlihy, a former garda and the leading historian of the various Irish police services, has compiled the story of Inspector Mills’s career and family, but also what happened next when the 19-year-old left the policeman for dead and escaped into the crowd.

From a recently-released file in the Military Archives of his application for a military service pension, it emerges that he was a member of the republican boy scouts, Na Fianna Éireann during the Rising. He reported to James Connolly and took part in an attack on the magazine fort at Phoenix Park, later joining the garrison at the Jameson distillery.

The widow of police inspector John Mills received almost £1,000 compensation for his death in 1919.
The widow of police inspector John Mills received almost £1,000 compensation for his death in 1919.

Following a narrow escape from police after killing Inspector Mills, he went on the run to the US for several years, secreting weapons by ship back to Ireland from American supporters. He returned to Dublin around the time of the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in January 1922.

Murray was arrested months later by the National Army in the early stages of the Civil War and interned until late 1923, but he later took on a new carer.

“What is extraordinary about the pension application is that some of his letters are written on notepaper headed ‘An Garda Siochána’,” said Mr Herlihy, who served in Blarney, Co Cork before retiring a few years ago.

Edward Joseph Murray followed in Mills’s footsteps by becoming a policeman in October 1933. His application for a military service pension in 1935, in which he referred to the killing 18 years earlier, gave his address at Garda Special Branch in Dublin and was witnessed by his sergeant.

“Due to the killing of a police inspector at Beresford Place in an attempted rescue of Cathal Brugha and Count Plunkett, who were being arrested for addressing a proclaimed meeting, I was smuggled out of Ireland,” Murray wrote.

In a 1940 interview to help verify his claims, eventually successful in 1942, the subject of the 1917 incident came up in the following exchange:

“Q: There was a demonstration at Beresford Place in July [sic], 1917?

A: Yes

Q: Did the police try to stop it?

A: They did. That is the reason I killed the man.

Q: Inspector Mills, was it?

A: Yes.

Q: There was no firearms used on that occasion?

A: No, hurley.”

By late 1942, Murray was based in Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny, but had been suffering serious illness. He was found to be of unsound mind in 1944 and transferred to the Garda Hospital, and later to the Grangegorman Mental Hospital. He was made a ward of court later the same year and died, aged 86, at St Ita’s Mental Hospital in 1984.

Although the latter half of his adult life was beset with illness, he lived to be more than 30 years older than John Mills was when he died.

Noted on his promotion to Dublin Metropolitan Police inspector in February 1916 as “zealous and efficient” in his duties, and an “unselfish and devoted comrade”, his funeral attracted members of every class and creed, and men and officers of police and military.

Compensation of £978 was awarded in 1919 to his widow Margaret, a native of Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, about 10 miles from where Edward Murray was last stationed as a garda. She died in 1943, a year before her husband’s killer began his final decades in hospital.

John and Margaret Mills had three children but no grandchildren. However, Jim Herlihy has tracked down relatives in Northern Ireland, who will attend a commemorative event on June 10, 2017.

Family of Edward Murray, who never married and had no children, will also attend the inter-denominational wreath-laying at Inspector Mills’s grave at Mount St Jerome cemetery. It is being organised by the Historical & Reconciliatory Police Society, founded by Jim Herlihy and others in 2013.

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