Belfast Telegraph

Government defers controversial event to commemorate Royal Irish Constabulary

A number of mayors and politicians have said they will not attend the event.

Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) around the time of the 1916 Easter Rising (PA)
Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) around the time of the 1916 Easter Rising (PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

The Government has deferred a planned event to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police, it has been confirmed.

The Government had been facing mounting pressure to cancel the controversial event, which has been widely criticised.

A number of mayors and politicians have said they will not attend the event which had been planned for next week at Dublin Castle.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said: “As a Government, we have at all times sought to have a national programme of commemorations that is authentic, sensitive and inclusive.

“We very much support the recommendation that there should be specific State-led initiatives to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP).

“However, given the disappointing response of some to the planned event on 17th January, I do not believe that the event, as planned, can now take place in an atmosphere that meets the goals and guiding principles of the overall commemorative programme. Therefore, I am announcing its deferral.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had defended the decision to commemorate the RIC, saying “all traditions” should be respected.

Among the mayors who said they would not attend the now postponed event included Waterford mayor John Pratt and mayor for Galway Mike Cubbard.

Mr Pratt said that the “appetite does not exist for representation at this event”.

It’s about remembering our history, not condoning what happened Leo Varadkar

Mr Varadkar said that the commemoration is “not a celebration”.

“It’s about remembering our history, not condoning what happened,” he said.

“We will also remember the terrible burning of Cork, Balbriggan, partition and the atrocities of the Civil War.

“We should respect all traditions on our island and be mature enough as a State to acknowledge all aspects of our past.”

His comments comes as Kevin “Boxer” Moran, the Minister of State responsible for Dublin Castle, said on Tuesday morning that the event should be postponed.

He said that the public debate and calls for a boycott reflect the serious sensitivities and concerns that people have.

“I believe it should be postponed to allow for greater reflection on how best to deal with the wider issue of such commemorations,” he added.

“We are at a very sensitive period in our historic 100-year anniversaries and the planned commemoration of members who served in the RIC and the DMP prior to independence while being led by good intentions, has failed to recognise the deep-seated feelings surrounding the force.

“We must respect the sincerely held feelings of people on the matter and note the historical record of how policing was carried out in the State from when the RIC was formed in 1836 and which ultimately led to the declaration in April 2019 by Dail Eireann to boycott the police service.

“I believe it would be wrong that this difficult period of Irish history that we are about to commemorate and which led to our independence to ignore the firmly held convictions by the general public.”

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the event is “not the appropriate vehicle to explore such complex themes”.

“It was an error of judgment compounded by the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste and their reaction to those who have decided not to participate,” Mr Martin added.

“They should withdraw their accusation that, to quote Minister (Charlie) Flanagan, those who choose not to attend this event are abandoning ‘mutual understanding and reconciliation’.”

On Monday night, Dublin City Council voted to boycott the commemoration service.

Councillors described the event as “obscene”.

The government said the event will commemorate those who served in the RIC and DMP.

Mr Flanagan and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris will be among those attending the event.

The Socialist Party tweeted: “Dublin Metropolitan Police engaged in brutal oppression of Dublin working class in interests of the Irish capitalist class in the 1913 lockout.

“The RIC brutally evicted poor tenant farmers and landless labourers in the interests of British landlordism.”

Sinn Fein has also called for the event to be cancelled.

Other mayors who confirmed they will not attend the event included Dublin Lord Mayor Paul McAuliffe, Cork mayor John Sheehan and Clare mayor Cathal Crowe.

Mr Cubbard said attending the event would me “hypocritical”.

“Attending this event would be hypocritical of me as they directly opposed those whose lives were lost creating the free Ireland we enjoy today.

“History cannot be re-written.”

PA

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