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Varadkar defends Royal Irish Constabulary commemoration

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar launching a Global Schools programme at Dublin’s Ringsend College. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday December 19, 2018. See PA story POLITICS Brexit Varadkar. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Apolitical row has bro- ken out in Ireland over the government’s plans to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary in Dublin Castle later this month (17 January).

The RIC and its Auxiliaries assisted the Black and Tans in atrocities in Ireland during the War of Independence.

It was one of the first organised police forces in what was then the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland when it was founded in 1836, following the amalgamation of four provisional forces.

In April 1919 Dáil Éireann boycotted the police and in January 1920 RIC barracks across the country were set ablaze.

The British government sent in the notorious Black and Tans and Auxiliaries to “support” the RIC.

The Fianna Fáil Mayor of Clare Cathal Crowe said he will boycott the service and called on the Garda Síochána to stay away.

Mr Crowe described the event as “historical revisionism gone too far”. He said the RIC had been “the strong arm of the British state in Ireland”.

“In the main, I think all of the Government’s State commemorations have been apt and tasteful, but I see the commemoration of the RIC as a step too far.

He said the Garda Síochána should not be part of it.

“The guards have my full and upmost respect, but I don’t believe that, historically or ethically,they should seek to claim any form of descent from the RIC,” he added.

A number of other may- ors – including the Fianna Fáil Lord Mayor of Cork John Sheehan – have since said they will not attend the event.

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The Fianna Fáil Lord Mayor of Dublin Paul McAuliffe has a conflicting engagement hosting a civic reception for the president of Greece.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed disappointment but said it remained open to the councils to send others to attend instead.

Ireland’s Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris – a former Deputy Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which replaced the RUC – will address the com- memoration of the RIC and Dublin Metropolitan Constabulary (DMP).

The commemoration is part of a wider Irish government programme to mark the decade of centenaries between 2012 and 1922.

Mr Varadkar said he and his government stand over their decision to press ahead with commemorating the RIC and DMP.

“I think it’s a shame that people are boycotting the event, but the Government stands over the decision to hold the event.

“I’m disappointed to hear that some people are going to boycott  the event. I think that is regrettable.

“I remember, you know, 10, 15 years ago it was very controversial to commemorate the deaths of Irish soldiers in the first World War, because some people felt that they shouldn’t be remembered because they fought for the United Kingdom, because they fought for the British.

“That has changed. We now all accept, or almost everyone accepts, that it is right and proper to remember Irish people, soldiers who died in the first World War.

“And I think the same thing really applies to police officers, police officers who were killed, Catholic and Protestant alike, who were members ofthe RIC and the DMP; many of those officers’ families are still alive and remember them.

“I suppose if somebody is taking a decision not to attend, I would ask them, if they’re not going to attend to at least allow somebody from their council to do that.

“So, if they want to take a personal decision not to attend, that’s their decision, but there may be other people in their city or in their county who feel differently. I would like the deaths of these men recognised.”

Ireland’s Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the event is intended to bring about “mutual respect and mutual understanding of the different traditions on the island” and stressed it is not a celebration.

“There is no question but that there are very real sensitivities involved here. I acknowledge that.

“But there are sensitivities on both sides.

“The RIC has found itself on the wrong side of history.

“The intolerance that was often characteristic of Ireland in the past sometimes forced people to deny their own family histories and airbrush parents, grandparents and siblings out of the picture for doing no more than serving as an army officer or police officer to support their families.”

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