Dublin Castle in 1916
The Office of the Revenue Commissioners (Revenue) was established by Government Order 2/23 on 21 February 1923, seven years after the Easter Rising in 1916. It was not a completely new organisation - to a large extent it was an amalgam of the existing British tax and customs administrations in Ireland brought together under new Irish management. The decision to merge the two entities was taken by Michael Collins when he was the Minister for Finance in the Provisional Irish Government.
Although Dublin Castle is synonymous with Revenue and has been its HQ since 1923, the British administration had used another iconic Dublin building, the Custom House, for its Customs & Excise and Stamp Duty services in Ireland.
It was probably Michael Collins who decided to move Revenue into Dublin Castle. Indeed, it was Collins who had accepted the keys of the Castle from Viceroy FitzAlan-Howard on 16 January 1922.
Bulmer Hobson joined the Revenue Commissioners in 1924. He must have enjoyed the fact that his place of work had, less than three years earlier, been the seat of British power in Ireland and the place to which intelligence reports on his activities had been sent by the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police.
The Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) kept a very close eye on pro-independence activists, labelled ‘extremists’, in the 11 months leading up to the Easter Rising. Daily reports were compiled by Superintendent Owen Brien from intelligence gathered around the city and submitted to Sir Matthew Nathan, Under Secretary for Ireland at Dublin Castle.
Key locations kept under surveillance included Tom Clarke’s shop at 75 Parnell Street, the Irish Volunteers office at 2 Dawson Street, and the office of the Gaelic League at 41 Parnell Square. Comings and goings were also monitored at the five main Dublin train stations.
230 individuals are mentioned in the reports - but some attracted far more attention from the DMP than others. Tom Clarke, a leading figure in the Irish Republican Brotherhood and one of the architects of the Easter Rising, features in almost every report.
Other frequently occurring names are those of Pierce Beasley, Thomas Byrne, Con Colbert and Bulmer Hobson. Surprisingly, given their later prominent roles, Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Seán MacDermott and other nationalist leaders do not feature to the same extent.
The DMP report for 24 November 1915 shows that a very high-powered meeting took place at the Irish Volunteer office at 19.00. Among those present were Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, Joseph Plunkett, Eamonn DeValera and Bulmer Hobson. The report also notes that ‘Some thirty Boy Scouts with miniature rifles were on the premises during the time’.