Objects > Irish Constabulary reward poster for poteen seizure


Irish Constabulary £30 reward poster for poteen seizure

Date: 1844

Material: paper

Dimensions: 22 x 34 cm

Organisation: Irish Constabulary

Source: Police Museum

Photograph of an RIC poteen still seizure in West Belfast

Date: 1920

Material: paper

Dimensions: 20 x 30 cm

Organisation: Royal Irish Constabulary

Source: Police Museum

Model of poteen still used in RUC training

Date: 1930s

Material: tin cans, copper piping

Dimensions: 50 x 100 cm

Organisation: Royal Ulster Constabulary

Source: Police Museum, 1993.195

This poster offers a reward for information leading to the discovery and arrest of persons involved in a seizure of poteen. Reward posters like these were displayed on walls or notice boards outside Irish Constabulary barracks. The British government believed that the illegal distillation of poteen (Poitín/ Irish whiskey) was responsible for alcohol-related violence in Ireland. It established the Irish Revenue Police to curb the production and sale of poteen. Poteen-making provided a much needed source of income for distillers, who could react violently to the seizure of their valuable stills. The Irish Revenue Police were often accompanied by armed members of the Irish Constabulary. Poteen was distilled in isolated locations such as caves and bogs. Poteen-still hunting parties consisted of at least three men. A seizure could involve a six or seven mile hike, sometimes at night, across fields and mountains. When discovered, the suspect spirit had to be tasted by all members of party, measured, then spilt on the ground, and the still and worm destroyed.

In 1857, the Irish Revenue Police was disbanded and the Irish Constabulary became responsible for the enforcement of illegal distillation laws. The seizure of poteen and illicit stills continued into the 20th Century and remained an important duty for the Royal Irish Constabulary, Garda and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). Model stills were used to teach recruits to recognise the various parts of a poteen still and different by-products of distillation. These devices continued to be used in RUC training until the 1980s.