Inspector Mallon and the Phoenix Park Murders

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Inspector Mallon and the Phoenix Park Murders

Sir,—The likely involvement of Inspector Mallon in the flight of the Land Leaguer Patrick Egan following the Phoenix Park Murders, as mentioned in Felix Larkin’s article on Lord Frederick Cavendish (HI 22.3, May/June), was indeed typical of the so-called great detective. Police files from before and after the murders recount Mallon’s dealings with middle-class businessmen who were in the Dublin Fenian movement. During April he brought the D’Olier Street auctioneer John Sullivan from Kilkenny gaol to Grangegorman prison, where he was allowed to conduct his business affairs. Sullivan had been imprisoned under the coercion act, suspected of treasonable practices. On Mallon’s recommendation he was released on 19 May to auction ‘duplicates from the library of the Right Honourable Earl of Ranfurly’. Prior to his release, Mallon hoped that Sullivan would point him in the right direction as to who carried out the Park attack, and indeed the next day the inspector made a report on possible suspects and their reasons. The Dorset Street publican James Mullett was another of Mallon’s ‘interviewees’. Aware of Mullett’s financial difficulties, Mallon made him an offer at the end of June when he too was released from prison—a suspect in the case of the murder of a police informant. The publican was told that he would be rewarded generously if he put Mallon ‘in the way of saddling the right horse’. Mullett was even more compliant than Sullivan. His information confirmed to Mallon those he already suspected as the perpetrators of the Park murders. Ironically, both Mullett and Sullivan had been recommended as potential leaders to the Land League official who arrived in Dublin at the end of 1881 to organise the Invincibles. Mullett initially took a role in the organisation; Sullivan—who, interestingly, was recommended by Egan—did not. Mallon perhaps naively believed that Sullivan would ‘cease to be an active member of any secret organisation’ and recommended his release in May 1882, but instead the auctioneer continued his autocratic rule of the Dublin Stephenite faction of the IRB and, though well known to the Dublin police, appears to have been almost tolerated. Mullett was re-arrested later and in his statements tried to play down the part he played in the Invincible conspiracy, but he was nevertheless convicted and sentenced to ten years’ penal servitude.

With only rudimentary investigative techniques at his disposal, Mallon perhaps had no choice but to make propositions and deals to try to lure potential informers from the ranks of those he suspected of crime. Of course, that is how he got his prime informer in the Park case, James Carey. What is interesting, though, is the attitude towards his suspects. The likes of Egan, Sullivan and Mullett were clearly treated better than suspects from the artisan or labouring class, who certainly would not be released from prison to conduct business affairs; and whilst it is true that informers from the lower orders were spirited away after Mallon had used them to gain a conviction, it was only after they had appeared in court against their associates that they were let go. They were not—as in the case of Egan—aided in their flight before they put their lives in danger by appearing openly as a tool of the crown.

It seems that class, apparent even within Fenianism, influenced the way the law dealt with suspects.—Yours etc.,




Co. Offaly


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