John Ryan

ryan death

ryan irish times

police pub fox pub arizona
Believed to be Tans outside the pub
The Shanagan interior today in Arizona

Collins believed that McKee and Clancy were betrayed to Crown forces by a British Army soldier, James "Shankers" Ryan. McKee and Clancy had been captured at Sean Fitzpatrick's house at 36 Gloucester Street and brought to Dublin Castle. Breen in his book says that Ryan telephoned the information on McKee and Clancy to Dublin Castle and the premises were raided by the British at 2am. The details of the phone call must have been transmitted to the IRA from one of the Dublin Castle moles. Ryan was variously described as “a ne’er do well”, "a drunken bousey" and "a tout" before Bloody Sunday by the Royal Irish Constabulary. Although that does not necessarily mean that he was, but that the police believed that he was. Ryan was spying on wanted men at night time. Paddy Kennedy's Witness statement says Curfew made no difference as far as he was concerned, he could be out at any time during the night. It was established that he was the man who tracked Dick McKee to a house in Gloucester Street and that he chalked, by arrangement, the door of the house in which McKee was stopping on the night he was arrested there. The idea of the chalk mark was to guide the Auxiliaries to the house in question

The Irish Times report describes Ryan as 48 years old, now in the Military Foot Police, but had originally enlisted in 8th Hussars and had seen active service in the war. Paddy Kennedy's Witness Statement says the IRA believed that Ryan was at one time employed as a batman to a British Military officer in the Castle, under whom he served in the British Army in India.

medal card possible
Possible Medal Card  

This medal index card is for a John Ryan in 8th Hussars, but nothing to indicate that he died in 1921

1921 Feb 5 – Lance Corporal MPC/MFP John Ryan was assassinated in Dublin. Thee is some discrepancy in accounts as to who killed him

A hit squad of Bill Stapleton, Eddie Byrnes and Paddy Kennedy walked into Hynes' pub on the corner of Old Glouchester Place and Lower Sean Macdermott St and shot Ryan dead. They left Jimmy Conroy outside on guard. Ryan had entered the pub with his brother in law (I assume husband of Becky Cooper, but he is not named). Ryan was standing facing counter and reading the morning newspaper. The barman had meantime made himself scarce. They held him up, and searched him, but he had no guns or papers on him. They asked him his name, he said "Ryan" and they then shot him and left the pub in the direction of the Gloucester Diamond.

Paddy Kennedy's Witness Statement only mentions Kennedy himself and Conroy and Stapleton - "A couple of months after the murder of Dick McKee, instructions were given by the Director of Intelligence that the informer, John Ryan, was to be shot. This order was duly carried out. We knew that Ryan frequented a public-house adjacent to where he resided, and on a morning in February,1921,I took two squad men there, Bill Stapleton and Jimmy Conroy.Two of us entered the house in question and shot him, the third man remained outside. "

William James Stapeltons Witnes statement says " John Ryan and the murder of McKee, Clancy and Clune. John Ryan was a British military policeman and was a brother of Mrs Becky Cooper of Corporation Street who ran a shebeen ( a place where alcoholic drink is sold illegally), which was a favourite haunt of many of the British Tans, Auxiliaries and Army. It was known through (IRA) G.H.Q. Intelligence that Ryan was responsible for the arrest and subsequent murder of Dick McKee, Peader Clancy and Clune who, by the way, were in hiding from the enemy in the vicinity of the Gloucester Diamond very near to Becky Coopers place. The squad were told off to have this man executed and as usual an Intelligence Officer was appointed to identify him. In this case it was Paddy Kennedy. Before the two men were detailed to carry out the execution, I asked to be allowed to take part in it as I felt very keenly about the murder of Dick McKee who was a great friend of mine with whom I fought in 1916 and served subsequently with him in the 2nd Battalion. My request was granted and the second man instructed to accompany me was Eddie Byrne, now deceased. About 10.30 o,clock on the morning of the 5th February, 1921, our Intelligence Officer located Ryan in Hynes public house at the corner of Old Gloucester Place and Corporation St. We entered the public house with the Intelligence Officer and I saw Ryan standing facing the counter reading a newspaper and he was identified by the I.O. Before doing the job we held him up and searched him but he had no guns or papers on him. I think we said , You are Ryan, and I think he rejoined, Yes, and what about it, or words to that effect. With that we shot him. I have an idea that the chap behind the counter was one of our I.O.,s contacts as he made himself very scarce when we entered. We left the place then and proceeded towards the Gloucester Diamond and as usual the remainder of the Squad were following up to cover our retreat. We went back to the Squad dump which was in a stable off North Great Charles St. near Mountjoy Square and that concluded the operation as far as we were concerned."

W.S.445 Col. James J. Slattery (a name from his WS was removed in 2002 because of a living person being referred to) John Ryan was, in one way or another, an agent of the Dublin Castle authorities. As far as I can recollect it was he who was responsible for the arrest of McKee and Clancy. He knew them and he was supposed to have tracked them that night to the place where they slept, somewhere around Gloucester Street. Early in February, 1921, instructions were given to have Ryan executed. Four or five of us proceeded to the Gloucester Diamond, where it was known Ryan used to frequent.------------ a member of the Intelligence Section. entered the public house there and shot Ryan. Five or six members of the Squad, including myself, acted as covering party for------------

Bernard C Byrne covers the shooting of John Ryan, British Spy, shot 5th February,1921 in his Witness Statement. He says that Headquarters informed the Squad that they had located Ryan and that he could be found around mid-day practically any day drinking in a public house in Gloucester Diamond, on the opposite corner to the small church then known as the Tin Chapel. It was decided that Tom Keogh and Bernard Byrne should check out the pub. They were accompanied by Slattery, Eddie Byrne, Vincent Byrne, Frank Bolster, Jimmy Conroy, Stapleton, Leonard, Mick Kennedy and Mick Reilly. Keogh and Bernard Byrne had a good description of Ryan. The rest of the group were the covering party. Tom Keogh and Bernard Byrne entered the public-house by a door on the right hand side, called for two drinks, surveyed the customers. They narrowed their choice of target down to one man who was sitting on their immediate right deeply immersed in a study of The Early Bird, a racing paper. They were unable to see his features, but believed from his general build that he was the man in whom we were interested. Keogh nudged Byrne to make a move, and Byrne approached the man and asked him what they were tipping for some particular race. The man had to lower the paper. Immediately he did so they knew it was Ryan. Without any delay Keogh fired on him, with Bernard Byrne doing likewise. Ryan was dead immediately.

As it is impossible for both one the one hand Bernard Byrne's account and on the other hand the accounts of Paddy Kennedy and Bill Stapleton to be correct. Therefore one has to choose between them. Given that Byrne's is a lone account, and that he does not mention the input of an Intelligence man to do the identification (manatory as I understand it) one has to discount Barnard Byrne's account

A report in Irish Times of 7th Feb relates that Corporal John Ryan was shot by three men. So there is a puzzle as to actually did shoot Ryan. There is also some discrepancy as to where exactly he was shot, but it is clear from the IRA witness statements (see Dwyer, The Squad and Breen, My Fight for Irish Freedom) that he was shot in Hynes Pub and not at Shanahan's nor at 5 Lamps Pub. From the map one can see that there is no room for thinking that they might have been one and the same place.

Dan Breen's book says - Known as Shankers Ryan he was a brother of Becky Cooper, a brothel keeper. His brother in law was with him in Hynes Pub in old Gloucester Place about 10.30am on Saturday 5th February 1921, when he was executed for his treachery. For some time prior to Bloody Sunday we had suspected him of spying, but our request for permission to shoot him was turned down. There was not sufficient evidence against him we were told.

shanahans pub

 P. Shanahan, 134 Foley Street - grocer and publican    near to Beaver St and at the Amiens st end of street
 Thomas Hynes, 19 Lwr Gloucester Place - tea, wine and spirit merch.  at the junction of Lwr Gloucester Place & Lwr Gloucester St ( Lr Sean Macdermott St)

Hyne's pub is definitely the place where the shooting took place. It is extremely close to Ryan's lodgings at Railway St.

Phil Shanahan's pub, was located on Foley Street in Dublin. Shanahan was originally from Tipperary and was a member of the Irish Republican Army. He was in Boland's Mills with Eamon De Valera at the time of The Easter Rising in 1916. Shanahan's pub on Foley Street was situated in a rough part of Dublin called the "Monto". Monto was a hive of IRA activity around the time of the war of independence, with several safe houses which included Phil Shanahan's public house.He was a Licensed Vintner and his involvement in the Easter Rising led to him having legal difficulties over the licence of his public house. Shanahan consulted the lawyer and politician Timothy Healy who was able to get the licence renewed. Healy describes Shanahan as about 40 years of age, jolly and respectable. He was a Tipperary hurler in the old days" He was elected an MP in 1918 and arrested and detained in custody by the British government in April 1920 but was released in time to attend the next meeting of the Dáil on 29 June 1920. His premises in Dublin were a safe haven for many in the Old IRA including Sean Treacy, Dan Breen and Sean Hogan. Oliver St John Gogarty in his Witness Statement mentions being at Shanahan's in Foley St "The prostitutes used to pinch the guns and ammunition from the Auxiliaries and Black and Tans at night and then leave them for us at Phil Shanahan's public house.He also says that "Shanahan's was the rendezvous of saints and sinners". The Arizona Pub ho own the original bar from Shanahan's have the following story on their web site - that Ryan lay dead, shot through the heart and the Mirror on the back bar was cracked. Shanahan's was closed by the British Military and the bar fixtures sold off. The back bar, crack and all went to a pub in Waterford which closed in the late 1980's. The back bar was discovered in a hay shed in 2009 and restored to it's former glory and is now at Robbie Fox's Public House in Tempe, Arizona. They appear to be confusing an IRA safe house, Shanahan's with another pub, Hynes, where Ryan was actually shot.

The reference to Five Lamps in North Strand is probably referring to the general area. The five lamps was a decorative lamp post that was a well known landmark

His sister Becky Cooper is referred to in many places

1921 Feb 5. Buried in CWGC grave at Grangegorman of 7681746 L/Cpl J Ryan of Military Foot Police. Husband of B Ryan of 16 Railway St, Dublin

Basil Thomson