One of the most extraordinary displays of contempt by an Irish government for its own people -- a plan to hold an official state commemoration for those who oppressed and terrorised Ireland for a century -- has been “deferred” following a huge public outcry.
The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Dublin Metropolitan Police carried out a string of killings, burnings and forced evictions from the 1820s, but particularly during the 1919-1921 War of Independence, when their ranks were supplemented by the (mostly British) ‘Auxiliaries’ and the Black and Tans, now infamous around the world for their brutality.
Memories of their atrocities are well documented and still live large in the memory of the Irish people, such as the burnings of Cork burning of Cork, the burning of Balbriggan, and the atrocities of the Civil War including the murder of the Mayor of Cork, Tomás MacCurtain. During the Great Hunger, also known as the Famine, the RIC and DMP helped export food while millions starved. They evicted people from their homes and beat people to death.
After intense efforts to create a sanitised version of the Easter Rising, the plan to pay tribute to British oppressors has added a new dimension to the government’s efforts to reinterpret the ‘decade of centenaries’.
But those efforts have now been decisively rejected by the Irish people, and the plans of ‘west Brit’ unionists and their MI5 allies to turn Irish history upside down has failed.
The plan to honour British mercenaries and collaborators with a state commemoration crept out last week. The 26 County Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan (inset, top), organised the event and pencilled himself in to speak. Also due to take part was the former chief of the murderous RUC Special Branch, the direct successor of the RIC’s own deadly intelligence unit. Drew Harris was appointed as 26 County Garda police Commissioner by Flanagan in September 2018.
Amid a whirlwind of public anger, politicians of all parties across the state backed away or outright rejected the idea.
“In no other State that has emerged from anti-colonial struggle would they celebrate the deeds of the oppressors,” said Sinn Féin spokesperson on Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Aengus Ó Snodaigh.
“The role of the RIC, and the DMP, were not merely to act as police forces, but they had a specific role to instil terror in the populace in an attempt to break the democratic will of the Irish people for independence,” he said.
Fianna Fáil’s Mayor of Clare Cathal Crowe was the first in his party to say he would boycott the commemoration, calling it “historical revisionism gone too far”.
It was not until three days later that party leader Micheal Martin issued a mealy-mouthed statement, bemoaning an “unnecessary controversy”.
On Monday night, Dublin city councillors officially voted to snub the event, describing the ceremony as “obscene” as they voted against participating in it.
There was also a strong and immediate reaction in Donegal, another county which suffered most tragically at the hands of the RIC’s actions.
“The Black and Tans were a terrorist organisation sent to Ireland in 1920 to quell Irish aspirations for a 32 county Irish Republic which was democratically voted on by the Irish people in December 1918,” said Donegal councillor Micheal Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig.
“The Black and Tans were given free rein to murder and rape across Ireland so for the so-called Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to state that they were “only doing their job” and “upholding the law” is disgraceful,” he said.
“Would Charlie say the same about the Nazi SS during the 1930s and 1940s and the police forces across occupied Europe who collaborated with them in handing over people for concentration camps?”
Mr Mac Giolla Easbuig said the Black and Tans “never really left us... their type donned a Free State uniform, an RUC uniform, a B specials uniform, a paratroop uniform, an eviction team uniform, etc. So this event is not just about 1920, it has far-reaching consequences.”
Fianna Fáil TD Pat the Cope Gallagher ,admitted the government’s actions had “reopened a period of unbelievable cruelty, hurt and violence from our country’s history”. Independent TD Seamus Healy also announced he would not be accepting an invitation to the event, saying: “This commemoration must be seen for what it is: A deliberate attempt to redraw and rewrite the history of the Irish people and the birth of the Irish State and it must be resisted. To participate in this sham commemoration is to support the blatant political revisionism behind it.”
FROM ONE REPUBLICAN TO NUMBER ONE HIT
In 2016, a lone republican staged a peaceful protest at a shameful Irish state event to honour British troops who died in the Crown’s suppression of the Easter Rising of 1916. Brian Murphy was assaulted, arrested and then convicted under the Public Order Act, although his conviction was subsequently overturned.
In an indication of the advance of republicanism since then, the republican message has been heard far and wide over the latest commemoration plan. Following a social media campaign, the rebel tune ‘Come Out Ye Black and Tans’ by the Wolfe Tones has risen to No. 1 in download charts Ireland and Britain.
The world-famous Wolfe Tones have themseles vowed to blast their tune in the direction of the commemoration. event.
OPPRESSION AS ‘SHARED HISTORY’
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (inset, below) has so far refused to apologise, and has instead mounted a cynical damage limitation, attempting to link the controversy to Irish reunification in an attempt to deflect. Using the language of previous MI5-linked revisionist efforts, he said the Black and Tans were part of a “shared history” which should be embraced.
“It is my deep regret that this week, embracing that shared history, moving towards a United Ireland seems to me to be that little bit further away than it was before,” he said, to further public outcry.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Varadkar was “completely out of touch with where people are at in respect of Irish unity”. She described the commemoration plan as “crass Fine Gael revisionism gone too far”.
Those who resisted British rule in Ireland during the Tan War, and citizens who suffered at the hands of those that enforced British rule in Ireland are those, should be commemorated not the RIC or the Black and Tans, she said.
“You don’t build a United Ireland by denigrating the memory of those who fought for Irish freedom and independence by lionising the RIC and the Black and Tans who suppressed that desire and upheld British rule in this country.
“You do that by having an honest conversation with people and explaining that the men and women fought the RIC and the Black and Tans were fighting for the unity of all people of this island.
“He should stop messing and establish an all-Ireland forum immediately to start preparations for constitutional change.”
Mr Flanagan admitted that “some mistakes were made” but has so far refused to be cancel the project. He claimed the RIC had “found itself on the wrong side of history” during the War of Independence and called for the RIC and the Black and Tans to be “acknowledged”.
The comments have further exposed Flanagan as an extremis. Some compared Flanagan’s approach with the authoritarian views of his father, former Defence Minister Oliver J Flanagan, who notoriously called for Jews to be “routed” from Ireland.
A GREAT VICTORY
The decision to cancel the event on 17 January was hailed as a victory of “people power” by republicans.
“While the Free State waters down history in the schools and removes it entirely from the curriculum they expect the Irish people to forget their own past and the suffering and genocides that British rule imposed on the people of Ireland,” said Republican Sinn Féin.
“The message sent to Leo Varadkar, Charlie Flanagan and the other west-British elements in the counter revolutionary Leinster House was that this is totally unacceptable. No other nation on earth commemorates its oppressors.
“The cancellation of this ‘commemoration of British crown forces’ is a victory for now for the Irish people. But the West British elements looking to rewrite our history are still at work. Apathy needs to be discarded and vigilance cranked up.”
Mr Adams accused the government of a “lack of respect for the courage and sacrifice of those who fought for Irish freedom” and described the government’s u-turn as “a great victory for people power”.
“The widespread popular outrage at their stupidity and shoneenism is uplifting and proof yet again that the spirit of genuine patriotism and national pride is alive and well”.