Mary Lou McDonald calls on Government to cancel RIC commemoration next week 2 months ago

Mary Lou McDonald calls on Government to cancel RIC commemoration next week

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has denied that the event is a commemoration of the “Black & Tans” or the “Auxiliaries”.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has called on the Government and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to cancel a planned commemoration of members who served in the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Dublin Metropolitan Police prior to Ireland gaining independence from the United Kingdom.

In a statement on Monday, McDonald said: "The Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police were not merely police forces - as the Minister for Justice seems to think - but they had a specific role in upholding what was oftentimes martial law and suppressing the will of the Irish people for self-determination and national independence.

"In no other State would those who facilitated the suppression of national freedom be commemorated by the State and I am calling on the government to cancel this proposed State commemoration.

"It is those who resisted British rule in Ireland during the Tan War and citizens that suffered at the hands of the those that maintained British rule who the State should be commemorating, not the RIC or the Black and Tans."

McDonald is the latest public figure to voice opposition to the event, with Mayor of Clare Cathal Crowe, Lord Mayor of Cork John Sheehan, Galway Mayor Mike Cubbard and several politicians having already declared that they would be boycotting it.

The commemoration is due to take place at Dublin Castle on Friday, 17 January. It will be hosted by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, who, in a statement of his own on Monday, said: “This event is one of a large number of events taking place during this decade to acknowledge and commemorate significant events or developments in the history of our island one hundred years ago.

“It is not a celebration. It is an acknowledgement of the historical importance of both the DMP and the RIC, and is in no sense a commemoration of the “Black & Tans” or the “Auxiliaries”.

“There is no question but that there are very real sensitivities involved here. I acknowledge that,” Flanagan added.

“But there are sensitivities on both sides. The RIC has found itself on the wrong side of history. The intolerance that was often characteristic of Ireland in the past sometimes forced people to deny their own family histories and airbrush parents, grandparents and siblings out of the picture for doing no more than serving as an army officer or police officer to support their families. It should be noted that the vast majority of Irish people who served as army and police officers did so with honour and integrity.

“That is why it is disappointing to see some public representatives abandon the principles of mutual understanding and reconciliation in an effort to gain headlines. This attitude, combined with a distortion of the nature of the commemoration, is ill becoming of any public representative and represents a step backwards to a more narrow-minded past characterised by a hierarchy of Irishness.”

Speaking on Monday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed disappointment at plans to boycott the event, calling it “regrettable”.

“I remember, you know, 10, 15 years ago, it was very controversial to commemorate the deaths of soldiers in World War I because some people felt that they shouldn't be remembered, because they fought for the United Kingdom, because they fought for the British - that has changed,” Varadkar said.

“We now all accept, or almost everyone accepts, that it is right and proper to remember Irish people, soldiers, who died in the First World War, and I think the same thing really applies to police officers; police officers who were killed, Catholic and Protestant alike, who were members of the RIC and the DMP, many of whose families are still alive and remember them.

“So I think it's a shame that people are boycotting it. The Government stands over the decision to hold the event.”