Irish government suspends police force commemoration amid protests

The government faced sharp criticism over its plans to commemorate the police forces that were involved in the repression of the independence struggle which critics alleged would be a celebration of the infamous ‘Black and Tans’

January 10, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
The Black and Tans are remembered for their violent brutality against the people of Ireland during the Struggle for Independence.

Following widespread protests and criticism, the Irish government on January 7 announced the deferral of its state event to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) planned for January 17. The announcement of the event had triggered widespread criticism that the move will amount to a celebration of the infamous Black and Tans,  former British soldiers recruited into the RIC as reinforcements during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921). The Black and Tans are remembered for their extreme brutality, targeting of civilians, and for carrying out extrajudicial executions and have been condemned by the majority of Irish society.

The government’s commemorative event was part of the celebrations of the centenary of the Irish War of Independence. However, the event evoked grave criticism from the progressive Republican forces on the left, and even from sections within the ruling center-right Fine Gael. 

According to reports, the Dublin City Council also opposed the plan to conduct the event in the Dublin Castle. Several groups, including the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum, have called for protests on January 17, the day of the planned event.

The left-leaning Sinn Fein accused that  “Fine Gael are more interested in commemorating the enforcers of British rule in Ireland – such as the RIC and DMP – than ordinary citizens who bore the brunt of British forces, including those in the RIC and its reinforcements in the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries. It is an insult to their legacy.”

In their statement, the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) said the decision of the Fine Gael government to cancel the planned commemoration of the DMP and RIC, including the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries, was a result of the “widespread anger felt by the majority of our people and the speedy mobilization by a number of progressive forces, including the CPI, against this commemoration.”

“The strategy of the Irish establishment to weaken the people’s understanding of their own history, which is reflected in the removal of history as a core subject in the school curriculum. They wish to deepen the alignment of this state with imperialism, in the form of membership of the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), collaboration with NATO, and the continued use of Shannon Airport by the US army and air force. We should not relax our guard, as it is clear that the Government has not abandoned its strategy and will no doubt come back and attempt something similar,” CPI said.

The statement added, “We ask all progressive forces to remain vigilant. We need to take this opportunity to push forward for more people-centered celebrations of the centenary of the War of Independence, away from control by the establishment.”

In an editorial, the Irish Times wrote that, “The government’s approach to the RIC event was far too complacent,” and added that “commemorating the Civil War and the War of Independence must be very carefully calibrated. If future events are also approached in the wrong way, it may reopen old wounds rather than serve as a unifying exercise.”

Following the announcement of the deferral of the event, the Irish revolutionary song “Come Out Ye Black And Tans” which denounces the British imperialist forces, rose to the top of the Irish and UK iTunes charts.