An Garda Síochána or “The Peace Guard” is Ireland’s national police service; a largely unarmed, civilian police force carefully regulated by law and democratically mandated by the people of Ireland through their parliament, Dáil Éireann.
The Garda is the direct successor of the Irish Republican Police, the law enforcement arm of Dáil Éireann during Ireland’s War of Independence, an organisation some of whose members, like their Garda descendants, never carried weapons.
The Royal Irish Constabulary (or RIC), on the other hand, was Britain’s colonial police force in Ireland. It was a heavily armed paramilitary organisation quartered in fortified bases or stations throughout the island of Ireland, enforcing British rule and British laws in the country. As well as infantry training and tactics drawn from the British Armed Forces it was equipped with the best of weapons, modern rifles and handguns, motorcars and lorries, telephones and telegraph systems, at a time when such things were not widely available to the wider population.
It’s prime purpose was not simply keeping the peace or tackling crime but rather fighting a constant counter-insurgency struggle against Irish Nationalism and Republicanism. As a consequence of this forever war against the democratic wishes or aspirations of the Irish people the RIC maintained a vast network of paid spies and informers throughout Irish society. Dublin Castle, the formal seat of British colonial rule for centuries, was regarded as the spider at the centre of the RIC web that stretched across the entire island of Ireland, one that was feared, loathed and hated.
One would think then that contemporary Ireland would regard those Irishmen who served in the RIC as misguided at best, traitors at worse. And that indeed is the case. However, there exists a post-colonial, pro-British faction who wish to rewrite Ireland’s history, who believe that they can censor and delete those aspects of British rule in Ireland that most sane or right-thinking people would disdain and instead present a sanitised, purified version. They exist in the same cultural milieu as those British historians who are currently rewriting the history of the British Empire, presenting it as a force of good in global affairs not, as it demonstrably was, a force of great evil, pain and suffering. These apologists have permeated Ireland’s media and now they are reaching their tentacles into An Garda Síochána, using its image in a desperate attempt to rehabilitate the memory of the RIC by associating that detested paramilitary police force in the mind of the general public with our respected civilian police service, a patently false and anti-historical act.
The Irish Independent and Sunday Independent are the two “newspapers” that are most readily identifiable with the modern manifestation of the pro-British faction and predictably they are cheerleading the repackaging of Ireland’s very own Milice.
“An unofficial and low-key ceremony looks set to take place in Glasnevin Cemetery next weekend to commemorate the 493 members of the Royal Irish Constabulary killed during the War of Independence.
A number of retired gardai along with the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation, whose patron is Prince Charles, sought permission earlier this year to formally commemorate the anniversary of the disbandment with an ecumenical service at the cemetery. Despite not getting official approval, the group decided to go ahead with the ceremony.
Two years ago the Garda Síochána Retired Members Association adopted a motion at its annual conference to specifically commemorate the disbandment of the RIC. Talks had taken place with the RUC’s retired members’ association and, it is understood, with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the British government’s Home Office which has responsibility for the upkeep of the RIC plots in Glasnevin Cemetery.
The association adopted a motion at its annual delegate meeting in 2010 stating: “That the ADM directs the central committee to use all the means and influence at its disposal to have a monument or plaque erected at a suitable site in the Republic of Ireland to commemorate the 493 members of the Royal Irish Constabulary who lost their lives between 1st January 1, 1919, and June 30, 1922.””
I am proud of An Garda Síochána. But I am disgusted by those who would damage the reputation of that organisation by associating it with Britain’s colonial police force in Ireland or the Neo-Unionist cabal who wish to rewrite the history of their political antecedents, Ireland’s Vichy faction.
- Reading The Irish Revolution (ansionnachfionn.com)