Police pay and conditions

Published in 18th-19th Century Social Perspectives, 18th–19th - Century History, 20th Century Social Perspectives, 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 4 (July-August 2013), Volume 21

Above: A DMP constable guarding a tram during the Lockout. (Garda Museum)

Above: A DMP constable guarding a tram during the Lockout. (Garda Museum)

The weekly wages of a DMP or RIC constable during his first years of service were by no means high, slightly more than the wages of a labourer during a full week of summer employment, or just over a pound (20–22 shillings). The report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police published in 1914 found that the minimum and maximum constable’s weekly pay rates had not changed since the final decades of the nineteenth century. The minimum weekly rate stood at 23 shillings and the maximum, after fifteen years of service, amounted to 30 shillings. On average, a Dublin police supernumerary received fifteen shillings and sixpence for his keep. The weekly pay of the Royal Irish Constabulary was even lower. A probationer in the force was paid fifteen shillings per week. To compare, an inquiry into the housing conditions conducted around the same time showed an off-season casual workman’s pay to be about ten to fifteen shillings per week. Out of this amount two to three shillings were sacrificed for rent. The accommodation such rent afforded could hardly be called a ‘house’, much less a ‘home’. Often a family of five existed on the remaining few shillings, all in one room devoid of basic furniture, and at times even windows. The Dublin slum, in fact, was a thing apart in the inferno of social degradation. Although the men employed in the Dublin Metropolitan Police were not housed in slum-like conditions, the accommodations available to them were run down and continuously in need of repairs.

Undoubtedly, DMP constables were financially more secure than the unskilled labouring classes; nevertheless, the policemen’s wages were significantly lower than the wages of skilled artisans. Moreover, in contrast to the general rise in workmen’s wages, 10% in skilled labour and 20% in unskilled, policemen’s pay remained constant from 1883, while by 1914 Dublin rents had increased by a quarter. As it stood, Irish policemen had been under financial strain for some years. In the popular mind, however, during the Lockout these men appeared to side with ‘capital’ against ‘labour’, which naturally fuelled fervid resentment and eventually violence. The scale of it was striking but not incomprehensible.

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