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A Judge under Police Protection

Incidents in the life of "Peter the Packer" (Peter O'Brien).

The Phoenix Park Murders

The Phoenix Park murders was a horrible case in May, 1882. Peter O'Brien was under police protection for a considerable time during the trial of the Invincibles, and it was only during the trial he learned that he and Edward Carson narrowly escaped death one evening at Westland Row when they went to see off Mr Forster, Chief Secretary for Ireland. They found that he had gone earlier in the day, but did not know that there were fifteen Invincibles waiting on the platform to stab him.

In 1887 Peter was appointed Solicitor-General for Ireland, the same year that Arthur Balfour became Chief Secretary. And in January, 1889, he became Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. In 1891 he was created a Baronet, and in 1900 he was raised to the Peerage.

An amusing story comes from Lisdoonvarna. On Peter's first visit to Ballinalacken after being raised to the Peerage, an old retainer had gathered the tenants at the "grand gate" to welcome him. They were all clustered around the gate when the carriage was heard approaching. Tom stood out on the road and shouted: "Stand back, boys, and make way; our Lord is coming!"

Another time in Ennis when Peter and Chief Baron Palles were on circuit together, an escort of Lancers and police had been provided. The High Sheriff called to know whether the Judges would like to drive with their escort to Mass on the Sunday. Peter, who loved show, was delighted, but Palles replied good humourdly: "Well, Peter, you may make a fool of yourself if you like, but I'm going to walk".

The Clare Champion, May 1955

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