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Rineen Ambush
Part of the Irish War of Independence
Date 22 September 1920
Location Rineen, County Clare
Result Successful IRA ambush and getaway;
RIC reprisals on local civilians
Republic of Ireland Irish Republican Army
(Mid Clare Brigade)
United Kingdom Royal Irish Constabulary
United Kingdom British Army
Ignatius O'Neill Michael Hynes 
50 volunteers 6 officers
10 lorries of British troops (c. 100 men) arrive later
Casualties and losses
2 wounded 6 RIC dead, several British soldiers wounded
1 magistrate killed by IRA,
5 civilians killed by RIC in reprisal,
16 houses/shops destroyed by RIC in reprisal

The Rineen Ambush was an ambush carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on 22 September 1920, during the Irish War of Independence. It took place at Dromin Hill in the townland of Rineen, County Clare.

The IRA's Mid-Clare Brigade attacked a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) lorry, killing six officers. Shortly after, the volunteers were attacked by ten lorries of British Army soldiers. However, they held off this attack long enough to flee the scene and sustained only two wounded.[1]

In reprisal for the ambush, the RIC and British miltary raided three local villages, killed five civilians and burnt 16 houses and shops in the surrounding area.[2][3]



The volunteers in Clare had been active since 1917 and by late 1920 had forced the abandonment of most of the small, rural IRC barracks in the county. This gave them greater freedom to move in the countryside. In August 1920, the RIC police were reinforced by the British deployment of Black and Tans and Auxiliaries to the county. Five RIC men had been killed in the county in the two years prior to the ambush, along with four civilians and eleven IRA Volunteers.[4]

The Rineen ambush was ordered by the leadership of the IRA mid Clare Brigade, who had noticed that an RIC lorry travelled every week on the Ennistymon to Miltown Malbay road. John Joe Neylon, the leader of the local IRA battalion was put in charge, however the actual attack was led by Ignatious O'Neill, the Officer Commanding. He was a veteran of World War I who had formerly fought with the Irish Guards. The ambush party had only nine rifles and some grenades, the remainder being armed with shotguns or handguns. They prepared to attack the lorry from a railway bridge that overlooked the road at Rineen.


As the IRA party was lying in wait, Alan Landrum, the local resident magistrate, drove unwittingly into one of the IRA's outposts. He was stopped at a railway crossing at Caherfeenick near Doonbeg. When the IRA demanded he surrender his car, he drew an automatic pistol and the IRA men shot him. Thinking (mistakenly) that he was dead, the IRA weighted his body with stones and dumped it in a nearby lake. It was later found that he had drowned.[5]

The RIC lorry passed safely through the ambush position, travelling from Ennistymon to Miltown, due to some confusion among the IRA over the numbers they faced. However when they realised that there was only one lorry, it was attacked on its return journey from Miltown Malbay. The lorry was hit by a grenade and blasted at close range by rifle and shotgun fire. The shooting was over in seconds, five out of six RIC men being killed instantly. The last one managed to run about 300 yards before being shot and killed.

One of the dead was an English Black and Tan, the rest were Irish RIC constables. The IRA took their weapons and burned the lorry.[6]

However, the IRA party had not much time to rest, as the lorry had not long been set ablaze when ten lorries of British Army troops arrived on the scene, having been sent out to search for Alan Lendrum, the magistrate who had gone missing earlier that day. A running fight developed, as four IRA riflemen kept the troops at bay while the other volunteers made their escape. Two IRA men and several British soldiers were wounded in the firing. Padraic O'Farrell lists the casualties as three British soldiers killed[7] but this is not confirmed by the other sources.


The British forces, enraged by the ambush and the escape of the IRA force, took out reprisals on civilians in the surrounding area. In the immediate aftermath of the action, they burned the house and farm of the O'Gorman family and shot and mortally wounded a local farmer, Sean Keane.

That night, a mixed force of RIC and Military raided the home of Dan Lehane, whose two sons had taken part in the ambush. They shot him dead and burned his house at Lahinch. Patrick Lehane was burned to death in the attic when the RIC set the house on fire. There were further reprisals in Lahinch ,where seven houses were burnt and in Miltown Malbay, where eight homes were razed.

A separate RIC raid in Ennistymon saw the killing of Tom Connole, the secretary of the local ITGWU trade union and the burning of his home. PJ Linnane, a 15 yar old boy was also shot dead by the police and several homes and businesses were burned.[8]

In what may have been a belated reprisal for the Rineen ambush, four IRA men were arrested by the Auxiliaries at Killaloe on November 16, beaten, interrogated and then shot dead and another two were summarily executed in the same way on December 22 at Kilkee.[9]


The reprisals were condemned in the British, Irish and international press. In the House of Commons, the British Labour Party tabled a resolution condemning the resprisals and calling for an investigation. This was defeated by 346 votes to 79. Hamar Greenwood, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, defended the State Forces' actions, saying that the houses destroyed were those of, "notorious Sinn Feiners...I am convinced that the people of those two villages knew of this ambush".[10]

In Clare itself, according to IRA man Anthony Malone, the ambush had two effects. One was that the RIC became careful to travel in convoys of no less than three lorries. The other was that, as a result of the reprisals, the civilian population "became embittered against [the British] and adopted a more defiant attitude to the military and Black and Tans".[11]

The death of Resident Magistrate Alan Lendrum, however, according to pro-republican Catholic priest Sean Gaynor, "was not to our credit".[12] On October 1, the local IRA removed Lendrum's body from the lake, put it in a roughly constructed coffin and left it on the railway tracks at Craggaknock railway station for British forces to find. [13]


  1. ^ "Raids and Ambushes - Rineen Ambush (Memoirs of Andrew O'Donoghue)". Clare Library. Retrieved 2009-11-01.  
  2. ^ Padraig O Ruairc, Blood on the Banner, The Republican Struggle in Clare, Mercier, 2009, p169-171
  3. ^ Ernie O'Malley, Raids and Rallies, Anvil 1982, p77-87
  4. ^ O Ruairc, p 325
  5. ^ O Ruairc p159-160, "One of the IRA Volunteers drove the ex-British officer's car from the scene, while William Shanahan took the mortally wounded Lendrum to an outhouse in a nreaby field. Shanahan, thinking Lendrum was already dead, took him to a lake, tied a weight to him and threw him in the water, where the unconscious captain died of drowning."
  6. ^ On the ambush, O Ruairc p162-166, O'Malley p72-77
  7. ^ O'Farrell, Padraic (1980). Who's who in the Irish War of Independence, 1916-1921. Mercier Press. Retrieved 01/11/09.  
  8. ^ on reprisals, O Ruairc, p167-171, O'Malley, 77-87
  9. ^ O Ruairc p 325
  10. ^ Ernie O'Malley Raids and Rallies, p87
  11. ^ O Ruairc, p170
  12. ^ Michael Hopkinson, The Irish War of Independence, p130, Gill and Macmillan, 2004
  13. ^ O Ruairc, p171

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