Jack Quann
Jack Quann

09.58 8 Jan 2020


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Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was "quite shocked" by the backlash over a planned commemoration of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC).

It comes after his department deferred the event on Tuesday.

An 'alternative' event is set be organised for later this year.

It followed strong opposition to the event on January 17th.

A number of opposition parties and commentators had raised objections to the proposed commemoration for the RIC and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP).

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had suggested the Government created an "unnecessary controversy", while Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald called for the commemoration to be cancelled.

Many of those objecting pointed to the RIC's involvement with the 'Black and Tans' and the Auxiliaries.

On Tuesday, Minister Flanagan said he did not believe the event could take place "in an atmosphere that meets the goals and guiding principles of the overall commemorative programme".

"I know that, regrettably, this decision will be a cause of hurt and upset to many people.

"I commit to proceeding with an alternative commemoration in the months ahead."

He told Pat Kenny on Wednesday that calling it off was the right thing to do.

"There was a particularly hostile atmosphere, there was a lot of division - and of course the purpose of the event... was to bring people together.

"This is about reconciliation, this is about our shared history.

"Of course it's difficult, of course it's controversial - but this was going to be too divisive."

"I acknowledge that some mistakes were made, but I believe it's important that we continue with what was a really important decade of commemoration.

"Who were the RIC? The RIC were Irish people like you and I and it's important that we remember them, it's important that we acknowledge them - warts and all".

Asked how he distinguishes between those in the organisation who may have been associated with the Black and Tans, Minister Flanagan said: "That is the great complexity.

"That is why we're having this decade so as we can, 100 years later, acknowledge for example that members of the RIC were Irish - as were the freedom fighters in the IRA.

"Bu the reality is that this is our history and it's a shared history that needs to be acknowledged.

"The Irish story being more than one nationalist story".

But Mr Flanagan said he was taken aback by some of the backlash.

"I think the important thing is that we consult - and if there's any lessons to be learned from the last 48 hours from my point of view and that is perhaps the consultation process wasn't exhausted".

"I was struck over the last 48 hours at the nastiness, at the vitriol, at the e-mails that I got, the phone calls that I got.

"This is far from a programme of reconciliation - I was quite shocked".

However Mr Flanagan said he 'very much agreed' with a listener comment, which suggested: "We are quite clearly nowhere near ready for a border poll - any unionist looking at this will be rightly very concerned at the idea of reuniting Ireland".


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Black And Tans Charlie Flanagan Commemoration Deferred Mary Lou McDonald Micheál Martin RIC RIC Commemoration Reconciliation Royal Irish Constabulary

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