Belfast Telegraph

Boycott grows over plan in Republic of Ireland to commemorate RIC

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan
Cathal Crowe
Shay Brennan

By Cormac McQuinn

There is a growing storm over a state commemoration in the Republic for the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), with politicians planning to boycott the event.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan have been forced to defend the plans to remember the pre-Independence police forces next week in Dublin Castle.

Mr Flanagan insisted it won't be a "celebration" of either organisation and that it is "in no sense a commemoration" of the RIC's Special Reserve force, the notorious Black and Tans.

The event - part of the Decade of Centenaries - will be attended by surviving family members of those who served in the RIC and DMP, as well as historians and politicians.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald called on the Irish Government to cancel it.

"In no other state would those who facilitated the suppression of national freedom be commemorated by the state," she said.

Fianna Fail mayor of Clare Cathal Crowe sparked the row when he announced he would not be attending the commemoration because he believes it to be a "betrayal" of those who fought for Irish freedom.

At least eight other mayors and cathaoirligh (chairpersons) - mostly from Fianna Fail - will also snub the event on principle.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan confirmed that he has written to Mr Flanagan to say he won't attend.

He said the invitation came in the context of the Decade of Centenaries, but the actions of the RIC, the Black and Tans, and the DMP between 1919 and 1922 were "a violent response to oppose and suppress the democratic wishes of the majority of the Irish people".

Mr O'Callaghan added that he doesn't believe there is a "moral equivalence between the struggle for Irish independence... and the effort made to suppress that struggle by the British military forces".

He said he fully respects anyone who wishes to attend.

Fianna Fail Lord Mayor of Cork John Sheehan said his own attendance would be "inappropriate" as a former holder of his office, Tomas MacCurtain, was shot dead by RIC members during the War of Independence.

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Cathaoirleach Shay Brennan said he won't go "out of respect for those that sacrificed so much to make Ireland the free, independent state it is today".

Paschal Fitzmaurice (Roscommon) said there are "emotive issues" surrounding the RIC in his area due to allegations they colluded with the Black and Tans in the killing of IRA volunteers.

Independent Mayor of Galway City Mike Cubbard also said he won't be attending.

Mr Varadkar said it used to be controversial to commemorate the deaths of Irish soldiers in the British Army in the First World War but "that has changed".

He said the families of the police officers who were killed are still alive and would like to remember them.

"I think it's a shame that people are boycotting it, but the government stands over the decision to hold it," he added.

Mr Flanagan said there is "no question but that there are very real sensitivities involved here" but added that it's "disappointing to see some public representatives abandon the principles of mutual understanding and reconciliation in an effort to gain headlines".

The leader of conservative republican party Aontu Peadar Toibin TD said a protest against the event would be held at the Dame Street Gate of Dublin Castle on January 17.

"Charlie Flanagan misunderstands the meaning of pluralism. It does not mean that truth and justice are binned," he said.

"The planned RIC/Black and Tan commemoration in Dublin Castle should be cancelled."

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