History Politics

Fine Gael Government To Honour The Black And Tans And Auxies In State Ceremony?

I’m very much in two minds about the announcement of an official state ceremony to be held in Dublin Castle on January the 17th to honour those Irish and British men who lost their lives while serving with the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police during the War of Independence. While I have no problem with public officials or politicians attending a privately organised ceremony to commemorate the RIC and DMP it’s more than a little bizarre to witness a nation-state commemorating the memory of those who fought against its very existence. Which, after all, was the main role of Britain’s locally recruited forces in Ireland between 1916 and 1921, and in the decades before that, despite attempts to claim otherwise. Unfortunately the forthcoming ceremony represents more of the cognitive dissonance which has come to characterise so much of the Government celebrations marking the centenary of the Irish revolution. The unofficial adoption of a policy of false equivalency by the committee overseeing the centenary events, effectively placing the actions of the Irish Republican Army and the British Army on the same level, has stoked much controversy, seen most pointedly in the Easter Rising commemorative wall at Glasnevin, where the names of those who died fighting to establish an Irish Republic are listed beside those who died fighting to suppress the Irish Republic, including those who engaged in war crimes and the wilful murder of civilians.

And, as others have noted, so far it seems that the state ceremony to commemorate the RIC will include all parts of that organisation. Which means that on the 17th of  January the Irish state will be honouring the mercenary killers who served in the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve, the infamous “Black and Tans”, and the related Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the equally infamous Auxies, as well as regular officers of the militia force. Last September the Fine Gael Minister of Justice Charlie Flanagan claimed that the RIC men who died during the War of Independence had simply been:

“…doing their job. They were murdered in the line of duty. They were doing what police officers do. As they saw it they were protecting communities from harm. They were maintaining the rule of law. These are fundamental to police services everywhere. I believe I have a duty as Minister for Justice to police officers.”

Which is a blatantly untrue and partisan reading of history by a senior member of a sovereign Irish government that would likely not exist if those police officers had succeeded in doing their “duty”.

16 comments on “Fine Gael Government To Honour The Black And Tans And Auxies In State Ceremony?

  1. Chuireann focail Charlie Flanagan “Befehl ist Befehl”, nath cainte ón Ghearmáin, i gcuimhne dom! Glaodh an “Cosaint Nuremberg” air. (Féach: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superior_orders)

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  2. They’ll be putting up a monument to William Joyce next.

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  3. Maybe the Irish Government should stage a commemorative re-enactment of the Auxies and the Black and Tans brutalising women and children whilst burning their homes. Just doing their job.
    Or what about a nice commerative re-enactment of the 1916 Easter Rising excutions. Just doing their job.
    And for the FF to bring it right up to date they could celebrate Bloody Sunday which the British repeated some fifty years later. Just doing their job.
    But yes, folks need to move on and maybe, being generous that was! what was intended. But if so it is foolish in the extreme and shows I think an utter contempt for Irish history.
    One certainly wouldn’t honour the guards at the Nazi gas chambers and nor should the IG honour the Black and Tans.
    Memo to Scottish First Minister – ” can we honour the perpetrators of the Highland Clearances ”
    I think not!

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    • The Geheime Staatspolizei (Secret State Police), abbreviated Gestapo, was the official secret police of Nazi Germany and German-occupied Europe, were also just police doing their job. His old man Oliver J. was an Anti- Semite, Flanagan said: “There is one thing that Germany did, and that was to rout the Jews out of their country. Until we rout the Jews out of this country, it does not matter a hair’s breadth what orders you make.”Where the bees are there is the honey, and where the Jews are there is money.” Dail record, May 1943. He has said the notorious speech from 1943 was of its time and his father, like many others, had not been aware of the horrors being perpetrated on Jews in World War II. Material from the United Nations shows that as early as December 1942, the US, UK and Soviet governments were aware that at least two million Jews had been murdered and a further five million were at risk of being killed. Flanagan lives in his own self-righteous world.

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  4. One thing you see a lot of these days-world over again- is this idea that ALL members of any military or police unit must be honored regardless of the cause or situation. Syllogism behind it always seems to be “Because they voluntarily risked their life in ways most of the general population did not, they deserve special respect on the basis of that alone.” For some reason that’s a seductive argument to a lot of people, and many of those who think it’s wrong are afraid to say so…at least in my experience.

    The only group that gets a an unequivocal exception would be the Gestapo. Or maybe outside Japan at least the Kempetai.

    This clearly isn’t a case of “history written by the winners” as this faction ultimately lost. It’s a very strange and hard to pin down phenomena you see with a lot of people and places. This case in Ireland is a bit odder than most-some people may be going along for fear of stirring up conflict in the North. However the mindset is a lot more destructive politically in a list of countries.

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  5. Flanagan should read the “Memoirs of Constable Jeremiah Mee, R.I.C”, he left the RIC when they were given orders to shot civilians, from the book: RIC Lieutenant-Colonel Gerald Smyth made the following speech to a demoralized force:

    “Police and military will patrol the country at least five nights a week. They are not to confine themselves to the main roads but take across the country, lie in ambush, and when civilians are seen approaching shout “Hands up.” Should the order not be immediately obeyed, shoot, and shoot with effect. If persons approaching carry their hands in their pockets and are in any way suspicious-looking, shoot them down. You may make mistakes occasionally and innocent persons may be shot, but that cannot be helped and you are bound to get the right persons sometimes. The more you shoot the better I will like you, and I assure you that no policeman will get into trouble for shooting any man and I will guarantee that your names will not be given at inquest”.

    The RIC was the only police force issued with a rifle and revolver despite the fact that Ireland was declared part of the UK. They were not the police but a Para-Military force like the RUC.

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  6. One of my GGF’s was a DS in the DMP – he was armed with a revolver, so I’m not clear on the totally unarmed bit that keeps getting passed around. One night he came across several fellas at a lockup, an IRA arms dump. He was about to be shot when one of the men recognised him “Ah yes that’s DS Savage. Sees everything. Says nothing.” and let him go.

    Both the DMP and the RIC were Quislings and traitors, working hand-in-glove with the settler colonial empire, and actively participated in the genocides of the 19th century. No better than Nazi collaborators and their memory should rest in the same ignominy.

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    • So, “deferred” perhaps indefinitely and altered to some form of academic conclave a royal roasting for the Castle Catholic brigade.

      The father’s been doing the family genealogy for almost 20 years now. The fecker has tied us to every invasion since the Normans – before which we had outstanding Republican credentials, down to even buying tobacco from Clarke’s tobacconist, just because he was Clarke. A quick FB chat with the extant descendants of DMP DS Savage (a descendent of the Norman du Sauvage who owned a chunk of Down before ending up on the wrong side of the inglorious revolution) and can confirm not a single one wants the DMP honoured.

      How on earth is a minority FG govt surviving this unending series of monumental f’ups?

      BTW did anyone catch the Lisburn Press Center Stenographer over on Fealty’s site say respecting the RIC/DMP was the equivalent of an ILA? Better to burn out than to fade away I guess.

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  7. ar an sliabh

    Neither the RIC or the auxies were police forces in the modern, civilised sense. They didn’t even represent a proper military occupational force (one abiding by internationally agreed to rules of conduct) . They were the rigid enforcers of an ultimately corrupt colonial governorship that the britz maintained throughout the entirety of their empire. They acted without meaningful oversight, and the people they “policed” had no rights, human or otherwise. Generally, civilised countries offer basic human rights and legal protections for citizens contacted by police services, along with redress for grievances, tort, and a process of arbitration. The RIC were akin to Military police of the Nazi Germany type in their occupied territories during World War II. When they caused themselves to be hated enough by the local population for some of them to get ambushed, the Germans brought in their Einsatzgruppen to harass and terrorize the population. This was the express and sole purpose for the black and tans as well. They were certainly not there to serve or protect the people they were “policing.” They were doing their job alright, but murder, rape, torture, arson, theft, etc. are not the kind of job someone is generally honoured for. Alas, how fast people forget. The f’n wall of shame says everything. What a disgrace!

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  8. Graham Ennis

    utterly, totally disgusting. Really vile. It would be like Jews honouring the SS. I hope this ceremony is subject to strong protest on the day

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  9. civic_critic

    Between 1845-1921 up to 12 million people were killed and expelled from Ireland under the guns of the RIC. The obliteration of a culture, a civilisation, a language going back thousands of years.
    12 million people.

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  10. john cronin

    Of the twelve Garda commissioners since 1922, four of em had fathers in the RIC. The RIC was 75% Catholic, with a Catholic commissioner. For a century, the police were seen as a perfectly respectable career option for the sons of small farmers. (My father had two uncles in the force, but fortunately they left for the colonial police in Hong Kong in 1912 before the sh*t hit the fan.) When the RIC was disbanded, a lot were brought back into the Garda, as, pragmatically, they were the only ones who had any police experience.

    Bad things were done on all sides: you could read about the massacres of Prod civilians and Catholic ex servicemen in Cork or the murders carried out in S Armagh by Frank Aiken, a man who later became a FF minister. Sean Lemass’s brother was shot by Free State forces without a trial and dumped in a bog in Wicklow: the Ballyseedy killings were not very nice either.

    The RIC and DMP were riddled with SF sympathisers, Ned Broy being the most obvious example. How else could Collins have escaped capture so long?

    500 of them were murdered (there is no other word) by the IRA: shot down coming out of mass, or in front of their families, or cycling round their beats. Arthur Griffith famously said of the Soleadbeg killings (dunno about spelling) that “if this sort of behaviour was to be tolerated, we will soon be eating each other.”

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    • Some of which may be true, but the RIC was the visible face of British colonialism in Ireland. It was the enforcer and the reminder. The proof of that is the gradual collapse in British rule 1916-21 when the RIC was neutered by the IRA. So no amount of excuses can excuse that. Without the RIC and its predecessors British rule would have been untenable except through direct military occupation. France doesn’t celebrate the Vichy police. The lawful police of the French state. Ireland has no need to celebrate the RIC.

      And no, not all sides we’re as bad as each. Resistance and occupation are morally different activities.

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      • john cronin

        I fail to see how the murders of approx. 500 Protestant civilians can be construed as “resistance”

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        • There would not have bee a single solitary death had the illegal forces of imperial occupation respected the clear and unambiguous democratically expressed will of the majority of Ireland in every election from 1872 to 1919, for the British empire to leave its colony and never return.

          The British empire did not respect the peacefully expressed, democratic wishes of the people, so direct your complaints to the responsible party.

          If you want to defend empire and the genocide of 150 million people around the world and oppose democracy, that’s on you I suppose. But we will judge you for your lack of character, morals and integrity, No better than a Nazi.

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