1921 – The Early Months

Despite its republican heritage a conception has existed for some time of Kerry being inactive in the 1919-1921 Irish War of Independence. Tom Barry would say that all Kerry did was to shoot a decent police inspector and his colleague at the Listowel races. However, the first six months of 1921 in Listowel and North Kerry was a turbulent time.

The very first day of that year saw the death of IRA volunteer and student of All Hallows John Lawlor. A Fianna Éireann Scout for the 1st Kerry Brigade, John was arrested on December 31st 1920 and beaten by members of British forces at Listowel. He died the following day from injuries sustained. John was a student at All Hallows School in Dublin and was home for the holidays, he was the son of David Lawlor of Convent Street Listowel. All hallows School in Dublin was a school for training priests and John was due to go to Rome to complete his training. He acted as a special messenger to the Battalion Officer Commanding and was involved in transporting arms and ammunition.


District Inspector Tobias O’Sullivan was killed on 20 January 1921 as he walked home close to Listowel Police Barracks in Listowel. He died having been hit sixteen times in the head and body. O’Sullivan had been appointed to Listowel RIC Barracks following the mutiny of rank-and-file members in June 1920 and it was believed that he was killed in revenge for his part in the defence of Kilmallock Police Barracks on the 28 May 1920. He was then the Station Sergeant at Kilmallock, which was attacked by members of the IRA. The action lasted all night, but the attack eventually failed.

2 policemen were killed by an incendiary device: Sergeant Thomas Kane and Constable Joseph Morton.

One of the IRA men, Capt. Liam Scully was killed, 6 policemen were wounded.

O’Sullivan and four of the surviving men made a bayonet charge on the republicans. All of the surviving policemen were promoted to the next highest rank, and awarded gratuities. Eight men were later arrested on suspicion of being involved in the attack.

O’Sullivan’s exact date of birth cannot be identified. In the 1901 and 1911 census, the returns for policemen and soldiers were recorded by their initials. In the 1911 census, T. O’S was recorded in the R.I.C barracks at Maryborough (now Portlaoise). He was a constable, aged 31, born in Co. Kerry. He had been in farming before enlisting.

Marriage Certificate
Tobias O’Sullivan, a bachelor, a Sergeant in the Royal Irish Constabulary, living at Rathdowney, son of Bernard O’Sullivan, a Farmer, and Mary Maguire, a spinster, a Shop Assistant, living at Rathdowney, daughter of James Maguire, a Farmer, were married on 8 February 1915, at Rathdowney Church, Queen’s County [now Laois]

Death Certificate
Tobias O’Sullivan, aged 39, married, a District Inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary, died on 20 January 1921, at Listowel, Co. Kerry. The cause of death was Shock and Haemorrhage due to Gunshot Wounds in the Head, inflicted at close range. His death was registered on 2 March 1921, on foot of a Certificate received from a Military Court of Inquiry, held on 31 January 1921.

He was killed by Con Brosnan, who later became a Captain in the new Irish Free State Army. Brosnan and two colleagues, Dan Grady and Jack Ahern, waited inside a pub for their scout, young Jack Sheehan, to signal the DI’s approach.


View film footage of D.I. O’Sullivan’s funeral in Dublin HERE

Following this and other incidents the village of Ballylongford was burned to the ground by the Black & Tans in February 1921.