Difficult conversations must be had in the coming years to avoid a similar fiasco that followed Minister Charlie Flanagan’s decision to commemorate officers from the Royal Irish Constabulary this month.
The planned event has since been deferred, but not cancelled, after public outcry. Sinn Féin councillor Ruairi O Murchu tabled a motion at Monday’s Louth County Council meeting asking that the local authority insists the government does not organise state commemorations for British forces.
“Even on their best days, they were the eyes and ears of the British forces,” he told the meeting. “They had an absolute brutal role in the land war. I don’t know any other state in the world who commemorate those who had a vital role in ensuring that state would not come into existence.
“The only people you could commend from the RIC from that period of any other period where those who resigned or those like Ned Broy of David Neligan who provided substance and information to the IRA and the liberation movement.
“It would be a disgrace for the State to commemorate those who played a role in maintaining illegal British rule in Ireland.”
In response, Fine Gael councillor Maria Doyle said, “While I appreciate the history lesson, I would like to ask Cllr O Murchu is reconciliation is on his agenda?” while Labour councillor Pio Smith described the issue as “complex”.
“Thousands of RIC resigned in protest during the war of independence and they should be remembered as well. A blanket ban of commemorations excludes those people, excludes the people who were double agents,” he said.”
O Murchu’s party colleague Tomas Sharkey commented that going forward with anniversaries of the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War to come, proactive and collaborative discussions were needed.
Cllr Sharkey said that Minister Flanagan’s decision to defer the planned event was “probably the right thing to do considering the groundswell of public opinion.
“We’re at the start of a new phase of centenaries. There are deep, meaningful and open conversations needed to be had across Irish society. We’re all going to have to straighten our backs, swallow hard and have conversations on a regular basis.”
Speaking to LouthNow.ie after the meeting at County Hall, Cllr O Murchu, who is one of two Sinn Féin candidates running in next month’s general election, explained his opposition to such commemorations.
“Its vital that people oppose any commemoration of the RIC carried out by the State. The reality is the RIC and DNP were part of the coercive arm of the British rule in Ireland. They are the people who operated a system of spies and informers, they operated against every organisation and institution that was trying to liberate this country or people who were trying to make lives better. They played an atrocious role in the land war.
“It’s well documented they were involved in relation to selecting people for execution in 1916. They were against the liberation forces, which was the IRA during the Tan war.
“I don’t see any other State in the world where you would have a situation where you would commemorate those people that took a stand against you and carried out various attacks – particularly when we talk about the Black and Tans and the auxiliaries.”
The Dundalk-based representative said further consideration should have been given to this and while he is satisfied it has been deferred for the time being, the event should be cancelled entirely.
“There are difficult commemorations coming up related to the Civil War. A huge number of acts occurred during the Civil War that nobody could defend.
“But it’s our history, we need to look at it. I understand the RIC, DNP, auxiliaries and the Black and Tans are part of our history. We certainly don’t need to commemorate them. I don’t think that is a mature action,” he continued.
I cannot get my head around how anyone can think it is logical – in a country that has struggled for centuries to be liberated by what was an oppressive rule by Britain – that we would play a part [in commemorating people who] in halting us on the road to freedom, those people who committed heinous acts of coercion and who killed our people.
He called on officials and representative of Louth County Council to refuse any invites to such events in the future.
“It won’t be in any way acceptable. We need to have consultation in relation to all these events coming up and I accept there are difficulties.”