Donegal politicians welcome Fine Gael's U-turn on Black and Tan linked commemoration

Plans to commemorate put on hold for now

Donegal politicians welcome Fine Gael's  U-turn on Black and Tan linked commemoration

The commemoration event link to the Black and Tans has been put on hold for now

Donegal politicians have welcomed the decision by the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, to defer the proposed State commemoration of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP)

The event, which was to be held in Dublin Castle on Friday week, January 17 has been postponed after a number of politicians, including nearly all in Donegal, said they would boycott the event.

It was part of the State programme to mark the decade of centenaries, was to be addressed by Minister Flanagan and Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris.

The RIC was established in 1836 and disbanded after Irish independence in 1922. It operated in all parts of Ireland except in Dublin, where the DMP was the police force during the same period.

The armed RIC was in the vanguard of British resistance to the IRA during the War of Independence causing thousands to quit the force. Dáil Éireann organised a boycott of the force from April 1919 on and the mass burning of RIC barracks began in January 1920.

When the British government realised the RIC was not up to the task of defending British rule in Ireland, they drafted in the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries, mercenary soldiers from Britain, to take the fight to the IRA.

Earlier today, (Tuesday), the cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr Nicholas Crossan confirmed that Donegal County Council will not be sending a representative to the commemoration. he had been in touch with 34 of the 37 councillors and no one was in favour of attending the event. He decided as a result there was no need to hold a special council meeting on the matter.

Independent west Donegal councillor, Micheal Choilm Mac Giolla Easbuig, (above), took issue with this saying a more powerful statement against this commemoration would be allow a meeting to it would be on record that Donegal objected.

Reacting to this evening's news Cllr Mac Giolla Easbuig said he was delighted to hear of the minister's U-turn and hoped it brought home the message that things like this cannot be imposed on the people.

"It was wrong from the start, it was divisive and showed an utter disregard for the people and their ancestors who suffered at the hands of the RIV and their partners in crime, the Black and Tans. No right thinking person would tolerate such a commemoration and I'm sure there are many Fine Gael supports breathing a huge sigh of relief tonight that this is now not on," he said.

Sinn Féin Senator, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, (above), said that "deferring this is a step in the right direction, but it's not enough. This event needs to be cancelled".

 "Over the past number of days we have gotten a flavour of the extent of Fine Gael's revisionism, during which they have repeatedly defended their decision to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) and by extension, the RIC Reserve Force, the notorious Black and Tans.

 "These forces were part of the British apparatus of occupation from the 1800s and the Great Famine through to the mass evictions and the Land Leagues through to the 1913 Workers Lock Out and through to the 1916 rising and beyond. They acted to suppress the democratic demand for independence as expressed overwhelming by the people in the 1918 General Election. 

 "For any Irish government to advocate commemorating these organisations is shameful and it has rightly drawn widespread outrage and opposition.

 "Deferral of this planned commemoration is a step in the right direction, but it's not enough. This event needs to be cancelled and the government needs to demonstrate that they have learned the lessons from this episode," he said.

Speaking on RTÉ Six One news a short time ago the minister denied it was a mistake to hold the event and added it was disappointing "for the thousands of people up and down the country whose ancestors served, many with distinction, in the RIC. We are in the decade of centenary commemorations and it is important that every consideration be given towards acknowledging all aspects of our history. Irish history is complex. Irish history is controversial. Irish history is sensitive and i feel that it is very disappointing that it is not going ahead."

"The reason why this issue is being deferred and not taking place now is because  of what was a very divisive atmosphere that was growing and in the interests of public safety and in  the interest of protecting the wellbeing of those families who were looking forward to the event, I felt it should be deferred."

He agreed that given the disappointing response of some to the planned event he did not  believe that the event, as planned, could now take place in an atmosphere that meets the goals and guiding principles of the overall commemorative programme. 

Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan

Asked why he thought there was such a backlash to his plans Minister Flanagan said he believed aspects of it were grossly misrepresented.

"This was never going to be a eulogising of the Black and Tans,  this was never going to be a celebration, rather what was planned was a solemn and sombre event commemorating the RIC, tens of thousands of RIC men who really have been airbrushed from our history.

He said will consult further with the expert advisory group on centenary commemoration and with the all-party consultative group on commemoration “with a view to organising an event that is inclusive and fully respectful of all the traditions and memories on this island.”

Earlier on RTE Radio One's Drivetime programme historian, Professor Diarmaid Ferriter said the expert advisory group on commemorations never suggested there should be a State event for the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police.

When this was put to Minister Flanagan said he wasn't going to 'split hairs' with Dr Ferriter or anyone of that committee and denied he had misrepresented their views.

"What they said expressly was that every consideration should be given towards an event to mark the place of the RIC and DMP in ur history and that's exactly what we were doing," he said.

He added he was determined this event would still take place during the course of the year. He also stated that in relation to other potential divisive commemorations that were scheduled for this and the coming years, it was important they approached them in a spirit of maturity and that they acknowledge their differences.

"Nobody is asking anybody to abandon or disregard loyalties. What we're doing is requesting that people broaden their sympathies. This was made quite clear in 2012 when we embarked upon the Decade of Centenary commemorations. We're now heading to perhaps the most sensitive aspect and I believe that we work together and I'm inviting the parties now to sit down and deal with this issue that is less divisive than had been the case over the last few days," he said.

More News

Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.