As someone with members of the IRB and RIC in my ancestry I applaud their decision. The real history, as opposed to the myth, is complex. My great-grandfather was a republican. Two of his brothers were in the RIC. (Another was in a police force in Britain.) His son fled to the US in 1915 to avoid a gaol sentence for attacking an RIC member. His daughter helped that son escape. That daughter herself had two brothers-in-law in the RIC. She was my granny.
There are IRA guns buried in the garden of her family home. In that home, pictures of RIC relatives were on the wall.
The local RIC station was opened in the 1880s - following a petition by local nationalists and Catholics to the Chief Secretary for Ireland Asking for it to be opened, as a minority of local republicans were making life a misery for the local people. Some of the local republicans harassing the locals were ancestors of mine. Other ancestors of mine were among the people signing the petition. When the War of Independence led the British government to withdraw from local police barracks the local barracks was closed, to the anger of local people who complained they were being left without police to protect them from ordinary criminality. The old barracks was let to the widow of the local RIC member - until it was burnt out by Sinn Féiners in 1920, again to local anger as it left a local woman homeless.
General Richard Mulcahy once told some friends years later that the RIC were a big problem for the IRA - simply because they genuinely were accepted by the population, and republicans really annoyed many people by attacking them. It was the Auxiliaries and the Black and Tans who were despised. The RIC on the whole weren't, though some individuals were.
I spent New Year's Eve at a party in a relative house. On the wall of the room we were in was a picture of my cousin's grandfather and colleagues in the RIC, in full dress uniform. He was my grand-uncle by marriage. On my wall is one of my great-grandfathers who was a republican. On the same wall is a picture of another great-grandfather who supported the RIC. His best friend was a republican who was in hiding during the War of Independence.
That is the reality of Irish history - a complex intertwined set of identities and loyalties. The reality, one carefully hidden by the propagandistic history projected since independence, was that more Irish people joined the RIC, DMP and British army in a Single year than joined all republican movements in Irish history in two hundred years In Total.
So Of Course people like John O'Brien, Christopher O'Brien, James Gaughan, Michael Crowley and many others should be commemorated. They are part of our nation. The inconvenient fact is that the organisation they were part of had more support than all the Irish rebellions put together, was respected and treated as a normal police force.
➽ Jim Duffy is a writer.