To commemorate a police force with an intolerable record of barbarism is something that could only happen in an Irish state governed by Fine Gael sitting with its coalition allies and propped up by a hapless Fianna Fail. The Free State government has stated its intention to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police at a ceremony in Dublin Castle to be addressed by Charlie Flanagan and Garda Commissioner, the former RUC ACC, Drew Harris.
Speaking after attending a previous ceremony for RIC members killed during the Black and Tan war, Flanagan said that they were, ‘… murdered in the line of duty…….. they were maintaining the rule of law….’.
No lie, those are the words he used, ‘… murdered in the line of duty … while maintaining the rule of law….’.
Charlie Flanagan and his party undoubtedly want to bury the vile history of the RIC. Well, let’s remind him and his colleagues in the Fine Gael led coalition of the history of the force they plan to commemorate.
This was the force that implemented what Flanagan sees as upholding ‘the rule of law while doing their duty’ by overseeing the export of food from Ireland during the Great Hunger when over a million died of starvation.
This was the force that supervised the eviction of thousands of impoverished people from their humble homes. Think only of one incident among many, of that here in Donegal in Derryveagh. Between April 11th and 13th 1861, a “crowbar brigade," helped by RIC and British soldiers, evicted over 250 people, most of whom became destitute on the roads or inside the workhouse.
This was the police force that gained its title ‘Royal’ for making war on the Fenians and the same forces that brutalised and murdered workers in Dublin during the 1913 lockout. It was also the force that identified those to be executed after the Easter Rising. And this was the force that recruited the murderous Black and Tans and Auxiliaries to assist it in its bloody war against the democratically elected Dáil Éireann.
That this obscene event is taking place is not only an affront to generations of patriots who struggled to end centuries of imperial tyranny but it seeks to question the very legitimacy of our battle for independence and sovereignty.
This is a shameful exercise organised by a shameless government attempting to rewrite history in order to exculpate and thereafter, rehabilitate the empire that oppressed generation of Irish people. The question must be why would they do so? Perhaps Charlie Flanagan and Fine Gael believes that by whitewashing the record of the RIC and the Black and Tans that they can do the same with atrocities carried out by their Cumann na nGael predecessors during the civil war.
Whatever their reason, it is totally unacceptable and the people of Ireland must let them know that it is totally unacceptable.
Micheál Choilm Mac Giolla Easbuig is an independent councillor on Donegal County Council.