Anthony McIntyre shares his thoughts on the RIC/DMP commemoration controversy.
Irish Justice Minister, Charlie Falangist Flanagan, has found a new word for the embarrassing climbdown he was forced into over his plans to hijack the state for the purposes of a quintessentially Blueshirt project: the commemoration of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Straight out of Charlie's Chocolate Factory has come the sweet tasting word "deferral".
There was widespread reaction to Flanagan's plans to have the state venerate two institutions that did everything possible to prevent the same state come into existence. Amongst those opposed were some Fine Gael TD's and councillors. Among his own could be found those unwilling to stomach, if only for electoral reasons, his descent into an intellectual, moral and cultural relativism.
Last September Flanagan became the first Dublin government minister to attend a commemoration service for the RIC and the DMP. He did so and hopes to do so in the future because he believes it is the "right thing to do." He could have been more candid by saying he believed it to be the "right wing thing to do." ‘
The Flanagan logic is that the RIC and DMP were "doing their job and were murdered in the line of duty … They were doing what police officers do’. The extension of the Flanagan logic is that if they were murdered then somebody murdered them. Who? In the pantheon of murderers has to stand Mick Collins. Society is then led down the yellow brick road of moral equivalence through the government simultaneously proclaiming at Dublin Castle: here we stand to honour Mick the murderer and the men Mick murdered.
Flanagan has argued that:
The horrific record of the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries is well known. But there were thousands of other officers who behaved with dignity and honour in serving their communities. And we should not seek to airbrush these people from our history.
The RIC and DMP should very much not be airbrushed from history. It would be a grave revisionist crime against the public intellect if they were to be forgotten. They should be remembered but with genuine institutional abhorrence for their roles as agencies in the suppression of the Irish in the service of the British. They should be remembered but not with pride. And while it is true that the Black and Tans are not being commemorated, the Irish Times has pointed out that "neither can the legacy of the two police forces be disentangled easily from the Black and Tans or the Auxiliaries."
Moreover, Flanagan's stated plan to hold the event later in the year is just a face saving exercise to spare his blushes. It is dead in the water. There is insufficient public backing for the initiative and a tidal wave of criticism. Even Professor Diarmaid Ferriter implied a sleight of hand on the part of the Justice Minister when the latter claimed the commemoration was going ahead “under the guidance of the expert advisory group on centenary commemorations”.
What we stated was that ‘consideration should be given to the organisation of specific initiatives to commemorate the RIC and the DMP and to acknowledge their place in history' ... What we had in mind was an academic event - a conference or seminar - that would look at the issue of policing in Ireland during the revolutionary period, including the role of and disbandment of the RIC and the foundation of the Civic Guard, which became An Garda Síochána.
Even here, use of the word commemorate is to lead with the wrong foot. If the state is to acknowledge the role the RIC and DMP it should be through a denigrative not a commemorative event.
Ferriter was more acidic in his criticism that the advisory group “should not be used by the Government as a mudguard to provide cover for itself when it receives negative reaction to its solo runs in relation to commemoration." Advice the mudguard Labour Party could also take on board given its penchant for being Fine Gael's condom.
Flanagan is not alone in his efforts to sanitise the RIC and DMP. The Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar claimed that said the commemoration:
is not a celebration. It’s about remembering our history, not condoning what happened. We will also remember the terrible burning of Cork, Balbriggan, partition and the atrocities of the Civil War.
Sheer bollix. If there was a modicum of truth to it we would expect no objections from the office of the Taoiseach were there to be a proposal for the state to remember Bobby Sands in an official commemoration that did not celebrate or condone him. If the matter raised its heads we would hear cries of criminal, terrorist from the same people who want to venerate the RIC and DMP.
If people in Irish society wish to commemorate the RIC and the DMP, they should be free to do so in their capacity as private citizens. Society should ensure that its government is not free to do the same. Let the state remember them, surely, as the Kapo clique who killed and died to the tune of Rule Britannia ringing in their ears.