Armstrong, Richard (1815–80), MP and lawyer, was born 10 May 1815 in Co. Armagh, fifth but eldest surviving son of William Armstrong, engineer, of Roxborough, Co. Armagh, and Eliza Armstrong (née Steacy or Stracy). He was educated by a Mr Hawkesworth, entered TCD in 1833, and graduated BA in 1839. That same year he was called to the Irish bar, and he became a QC (1854), a bencher of King's Inns (1861), and first serjeant (1866). In 1865 he was elected liberal MP for the borough of Sligo; at the next election (1868) he did not stand, but at a subsequent inquiry into corruption in the Sligo electorate (leading to the borough's being disenfranchised in 1870), he admitted that he had spent large sums to help secure his election in 1865. In court he was often an opponent of Isaac Butt (qv), displaying personal as well as professional animosity. Armstrong was engaged, frequently for the prosecution, in almost every important trial that took place during his career, including the trials of Fenians, and he was regarded as the most effective cross-examiner of his day. Despite his acknowledged skill in marshalling circumstantial evidence in cross-examination, the first two trials of Thomas H. Montgomery, charged in 1873 with a notorious murder in Newtownstewart, Co. Tyrone, did not result in a conviction. In both trials, the case against Montgomery collapsed, and it was only during his third trial that the defendant admitted his guilt, and was hanged in 1873. The success of Armstrong's case against a fellow QC, William J. Sidney, who was charged with forgery, preyed on his mind, and he was for some time unable to work. He married (1847) Elizabeth Meurant. He died 26 August 1880 at 32 St Stephen's Green, Dublin.
Times, 22 Mar. 1873; Ir. Law Times, xiv (1880), 452–3; Annual Reg., 1880, 190; Boase; Alumni Dubl.; Walker; NHI, ix, 524; King's Inns admissions, 11; Stephen Ball (ed.), Samuel Waters A policeman's Ireland. Recollections of Samuel Waters, R.I.C. (1999), 40–41