Seán South

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 3 (May/Jun 2007), Letters, Volume 15

Sir,

—I refer to Kevin Haddick Flynn’s article on Seán South (HI 15.1,Jan./Feb. 2007). The claim in the final paragraph that there were‘4,000 full-time RUC men’ is inaccurate. The RUC itself never exceeded3,000 from 1922 until 1970. It is true that there were an additional1,500 Ulster Special Constabulary mobilised on a full-time basis, likethe full-time ‘A’ Specials of 1922, but the USC was a separate forcefrom the RUC, having its own chain of command, with sub-district (RUCstation areas), district and county commandants. It was thus unlike theRUC Reserve, which had no sergeants or officers of its own but wasdirectly controlled by the regular RUC. The combined full-time armedpolice capability tackling the 1956–1962 IRA Border Campaign wastherefore 4,500, not 4,000. The phrase ‘substantial British Armyback-up’ is also questionable, in that only the three battalions of 39Brigade were deployed, which, even with HQ and training depotscombined, hardly reached 3,000, and an effective combat strength ofprobably half that total. Compare that to the Irish Free Statemobilising over 50,000 troops by the end of the Civil War—some two percent of the then population—or the similar scale of mobilisation inNorthern Ireland from August 1969, which at its peak reached 32,000(including both part-time and full-time elements).

—Yours etc.,
TOM CAREW
Dublin 6

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