1920-1939 | Assassinations | Ireland

British security forces assassinate the Lord Mayor of Cork

A memorial to Thomas Mac Curtain in Cork-
Kglavin – CC BY-SA 2.0
via Wikimedia.

20 March 1920

At about 2 am on Saturday 20 March 1920, Tomas Mac Curtain, the Republican Lord Mayor of Cork, who was a leading figure in the long political struggle to end British rule, was shot dead in his own home by armed intruders with blackened faces. The police refused to investigate the murder and the British government blamed the assassination on hard line Republicans wanting to silence a moderate voice.1 A month later a Coroner’s Inquiry reached a different verdict. After carefully weighing the evidence given by numerous witnesses, which included members of the Mayor’s family, lamplighters who were working nearby, and others in the neighbourhood who had heard or seen policemen approaching the mayor’s house, the jury reached its damning conclusion.2

It blamed ‘the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) officially directed by the British government,’ adding ‘We return a verdict of wilful murder against David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of England, Lord French, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland and Ian MacPherson, late Chief-Secretary of Ireland,’ as well as three other senior officials and ‘unknown members’ of the RIC.3  Despite the verdict, no official charges were ever brought against Lloyd-George or any other minister of the Crown, or even any of the police officers who had taken part in the cold blooded killing.


  1. Charles Townshend (2014), “The Republic: The Fight for Irish Independence,” Penguin Books, London, p. 156, “Cork Lord Mayor Shot Dead,” The Pall Mall Gazette, 20 March 1920 p. 1 and “Irish Outrage: Cork’s Lord Mayor shot dead,” The Western Times, 22 March 1920, p. 4.
  2. “Murder of Lord Mayor of Cork,”  Weekly Freeman, 3 April 1920, p. 5.
  3. “Jury’s Remarkable Verdict,” The Leeds Mercury, 19 April 1920, p. 1.

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