Bell, Alan (1857–1920), policeman and resident magistrate, was born in Banagher, King's Co. (Offaly), one of at least two sons of the Rev. James Adamson Bell, Church of Ireland clergyman; his mother's name is unknown. Educated locally, he joined the RIC in September 1879 as a cadet, serving in the counties of Cavan, Galway, Roscommon, Westmeath, and Cork up to the rank of district inspector. During the land war (1879–82) he investigated sources of Land League funds and in 1882 arrested the American land reformer and journalist Henry George in Athenry. Bell, along with District Inspector William Henry Joyce (qv), compiled evidence against the nationalist and agrarian agitation for the special commission of 1888–9 which investigated charges against the nationalist leader C. S. Parnell (qv) and his associates. Bell's actions made him popular with unionists but a marked man among nationalists.
After almost twenty years' police service, he became a resident magistrate (12 November 1898), a civil service post under the Constabulary Act, 1836. Bell's districts included Athenry, Claremorris, Armagh, Belfast, and Portadown. With many years' experience in criminal intelligence, he was transferred to Dublin Castle early in the war of independence as a special investigator and intelligence gatherer. In December 1919 he questioned suspects for the attempted IRA assassination of the viceroy, Lord French (qv), and placed suspect premises under surveillance. Bell's vulnerability was made evident by the shooting in January 1920 of DMP assistant commissioner William C. Redmond, one of his informants. He remained in Dublin to investigate the ‘republican loan’ raised by Michael Collins (qv) and Sinn Féin, believed to be hidden in suspect bank accounts. Refusing protective accommodation in Dublin Castle where other officials had already retreated, he opted to live with his wife at a private suburban residence, 19 Belgrave Square, Monkstown, Co. Dublin. Bell summoned bank managers to his office in early March 1920 and progressed sufficiently to force Collins into taking action.
Carrying a pocket revolver for protection, Bell travelled to work daily by tram until the morning of 26 March 1920. At the busy junction of Simmonscourt Road, Sandymount Avenue, and Merrion Road, Ballsbridge, a group of men immobilised the crowded vehicle and surrounded their target, declaring: ‘Come on, Mr Bell, your time has come.’ Bundling him on to the street, they shot him dead in public view and ran from the scene. In spite of vivid eyewitness accounts in the press, no killer was identified. Bell's death came amid almost daily violence and barely a week after the shooting of Cork's Sinn Féin lord mayor, Tomás MacCurtain (qv), allegedly by police assassins. Alan Bell had acted fearlessly, perhaps expecting a violent death as the outcome of his mission. He was buried privately in Dean's Grange cemetery. Some Irish republican prisoners at Gloucester during the influenza epidemic of 1918–19 may have been saved from infection by his brother, who as prison doctor there had advised that the jail be evacuated.