Republican ‘confessed to 1930s RUC murder’

John Ryan with his family
John Ryan with his family

ONE of the killers of the first RUC officer to be murdered has finally been unmasked.

The identity of who shot Constable John Ryan was revealed as part of a documentary put together by a radio station in Tipperary where the murdered police officer was originally from and where he is now buried.

Const Ryan was killed in February 1933 — almost 11 years after the RUC had been founded — during a shoot-out against IRA gunmen who were attempting to hijack a mail van on the Grosvenor Road in west Belfast

The father-of-one was a Catholic from Thurles in Tipperary. He had been a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary before partition in 1921.

It is believed that he came to Northern Ireland to join the RUC because he may have had issues with the new police force in the Republic.

The Civic Guards — who later became An Garda Siochana — contained a number of former IRA men which may have put some ex-RIC men off joining it.

In a radio programme, put together by Tipp FM, Cork garda officer Jim Herlihy said: “Ex-RIC members would have found it almost impossible to get into the Civic Guards, especially since most of those who did join in the very early days were former IRA men.”

Jim McDonald, from the RUC George Cross Foundation, who also took part in the programme, said no-one was ever charged for the murder.

“There would have been a number of searches in west Belfast and there would have been a number of arrests for questioning but obviously nobody was prepared to talk,” he said.

The programme, however, reveals that a west Belfast republican made a confession to his friends and family.

In the years leading to his death in 1993, Bob Bradshaw, from Divis Street in Belfast, who had been living predominately in Dublin, confided in family and friends that he in fact was guilty of the shooting.

His son Terry Bradshaw told the programme: “He spoke to myself and my younger brother about it quite late in life after he had some strokes but he never mentioned any of the other people who were involved.”

The fate of Const Ryan’s family in the years that followed his killing is also explored. The constable was buried in his family plot at Kilvalure cemetery just outside Thurles, Co Tipperary.

The hour-long documentary, entitled Divided Loyalty: Tipperary’s RUC Casualty, was produced, presented and researched by Tipp Today producer Tom Hurley.

Part one, which ran for 30 minutes, was aired on Tipp FM radio last Sunday and the second part will run this Sunday (December 11).

It can be heard on