Sinn Féin forces in Laois have lined up to blast local Minister Charlie Flanagan for his role in organising an official State event to commemorate the RIC. They have branded the event ‘repulsive’, ‘shameful’ and ‘disgraceful’ and demanded that it be immediately cancelled altogether.
The Party have also issued a direct appeal and written to all elected representatives in the county calling on them to boycott the ceremony in Dublin Castle on January 17 next.
So far there is no indication as to the intentions of the Mayor of Laois, Cllr Willie Aird or any other Laois public representatives or officials.
However, Justice Minister, Charlie Flanagan finds himself in the firing line and in the eye of the storm which has escalated over Government plans to hold a commemoration event for the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP). The members of Dublin City Council even went so far last night as to vote by a massive majority for the Council to boycott the event scheduled for Friday week.
Now the Sinn Féin councillors in Laois, Aidan Mullins in Portarlington and Caroline Dwane-Stanley in Portlaoise have moved to ratchet up the pressure on Minister Flanagan and their local authority counterparts by calling on them not to attend the RIC related ceremony. They have made a similar call of the Council officials and gone further to demand that the controversial event is cancelled entirely.
In a statement from Cllr Aidan Mullins he says: “The proposal by the Government to hold a commemoration event in Dublin Castle on January 17 to honour the RIC and Black and Tans is repulsive to me as an Irishman and a Republican, as it is to most Irish citizens.
“This event should be boycotted by every Local Authority in Ireland. I sent the following email this morning to John Mulholland, CEO of Laois County Council and to the Cathaoirleach, Cllr Willie Aird, asking that our Local Authority is not represented at this disgraceful ceremony.
“I also sent the email to all of the other 17 Councillors in Laois asking them to support my stance and to make their feelings known to the CEO. Cllr Caroline Dwane-Stanley has already expressed her full support.
“This shameful ceremony should not get the approval of our elected representatives or Council Management and should be cancelled immediately,” insisted Cllr Mullins.
While the planned RIC commemoration is not surprisingly like a red rag to Republicans it is the scale and intensity of public outcry and disbelief across the board which has the Government on the back foot on this issue which seemed to come out of the blue. Meanwhile it is local Minister Charlie Flanagan who is caught in the cross-fire as he attempts to mount a damage limitation exercise and explain the grounds and context for the RIC commemoration.
But so far it’s not washing and the public mood and sentiment on the matter if anything is only hardening and escalating. In an intervention that Minister Flanagan could have done without, hugely popular and influential Abbeyleix PP, Father Paddy Byrne took to Facebook earlier today to castigate the Government for being so far out of touch and contemplating such an event as to honour the RIC.
In other related developments, Deputy Seán Fleming, whose uncle Mick served in the RIC for a time, condemned the holding of such a commemoration. He said it should not be happening, that there were far more important and pressing issues, such as 760 people languishing on hospital trolleys, but significantly he was adamant that Fianna Fáil were not properly consulted on this RIC event and had not agreed to it, even though there is an All-Party mechanism in place for such a purpose. He accused Fine Gael of going off on a solo run.
The RIC commemoration scheduled for Dublin Castle on Friday week, January 17 has turned out to be quite a political banana skin for the Government and an inexplicable own-goal on the eve of a general election.
As the issue continues to play out across the media and on social media platforms the overwhelming run of opinion is opposed and outright hostile to the RIC commemoration, not least because of their direct association and involvement with the reviled and dreaded Black and Tans. The historical context and the basis for their place of particular ignominy is recorded in the Irish Times this week in a treatise by renowned historian Diarmaid Ferriter entitled: ‘Black and Tans: ‘Half-drunk,whole-mad and one fifth Irish’
To make matters worse for Minister Flanagan and the Government the highly respected UCD Professor insisted this week that the Advisory Group to the Government never recommended an event to commemorate the RIC as they too moved to distance themselves from the Government’s plans.
There is not an Irish person of a certain age who is not familiar with the words of the infamous ballad, ‘Come Out Ye Black and Tans’ as local authority mayors from across the country line up to distance themselves from the RIC ceremony. Among the latest to do so were the Fianna Fáil chairmen of Westmeath and Offaly Councils, Cllr Paddy Hill and Cllr Peter Ormond.
Ironically, Cllr Ormond explained that in any event he would be attending an important official opening of a new industrial facility in his home town of Birr which coincides with the Dublin Castle function. And in a bizarre twist in the saga which is refusing to go away it is the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar himself, who doing the honours and cutting the ribbon at the new Grant Engineering facility on the morning of Friday, January 17.
So all the indications are that he will not be in Dublin Castle either to honour the RIC.
Meanwhile it is his colleague the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan who will have to assume that role and to date no one is queueing up to offer him any political cover or moral support.
Rather he continues to be lambasted by Sinn Féin, with Deputy Brian Stanley among those sniping away today. He too called for the RIC event to be cancelled outright.
“This Commemoration to be hosted by the Minister for Justice is no less than an insult to the Irish nation and a clear political attempt to rewrite Irish history. The fact that it is being held in Dublin Castle, the former headquarters and nerve centre of the British Military/Police, adds to the insult. It was from this building that all plans to suppress any attempt at gaining Irish freedom was planned and directed over a period of two centuries.
“Minister Flanagan tries in some way to sanitise this event and fails miserably to do so. The reality is that from its founding in 1836 the RIC were central to supressing peaceful political movements and armed rebellions in Ireland. They also enforced the social injustice that was heaped on the Irish peasantry in the form of evictions etc.
“He also tries to distance the event from the Black and Tans and this of course is ludicrous. The Black and Tans and Auxiliaries were recruited by the British as ‘Policemen’ into the Police force in Ireland which was the RIC. They carried out a campaign of terror in 1920 and 1921 not seen in Ireland since the suppression of the 1798 Rebellion. The DMP also comprised of the dreaded ‘G men’.
“These were the political detectives whose sole job was to gather intelligence and stamp out any attempt at challenging British rule.
“What Minister Flanagan and the Government are trying to do here is rewrite Irish history. They have politicised this event by using the resources of the State to organise it and taxpayer’s money is being used to fund it. It clearly doesn’t have the backing of the Dáil and should now be cancelled,” asserted Deputy Stanley.