Ferocious public backlash as Leo Varadkar doubles down on decision of state to commemorate Royal Irish Constabulary

The public backlash to the decision taken by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Irish government to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) later this month is continuing to grow.

Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 12:57 pm

The state organised commemoration is scheduled to take place in Dublin Castle on Friday January 17, 2020.

The event is part of a state initiative to mark what has been described a a decade of centenaries.

"The RIC/DMP commemoration is not a celebration," tweeted Taoiseach Varadkar on Tuesday morning.

"It’s about remembering our history, not condoning what happened.

"We will also remember the terrible burning of Cork, Balbriggan, partition and the atrocities of the Civil War."

The Taoiseach added: "We should respect all traditions on our island and be mature enough as a State to acknowledge all aspects of our past."

Mr. Varadkar's tweets on Tuesday morning came less than 24 hours after he said was "regrettable" a number of publicly elected representatives confirmed they would not be attending the state organised commemoration.

The public reaction to the commemoration has been almost completely one of anger and disgust.

"To commemorate is to recognise and to show respect," replied one Irish man.

"On this occasion, appeasing British loyalists and the establishment isn’t the best stance to take.

"You’re totally out of touch with your citizens and out of your depth in your office. RESIGN!," added the man.

Leo Varadkar (left) and a group of men in the RIC in 1914.
Leo Varadkar (left) and a group of men in the RIC in 1914.

One woman said: "This is utter nonsense. I understand the bigger picture is the possible unity of the island but imagine for one moment in Syria a commemoration being held for ISIS. It’s exactly the same."

Independent Mayor of Galway, Mike Cubbard, Fianna Fáil Mayor of Clare, Cathal Crowe, and Fianna Fáil Cork Councillor John Sheehan, all three of whom were invited to the commemoration, confirmed in recent days that they will not attend the event.

The RIC had jurisdiction throughout Ireland before independence was declared in 1922.

Unlike the rest of the country, Dublin was policed by the DMP and not the RIC.

A helmet worn by the RIC.

In 1913 the RIC were involved in the deaths of two trade unionists, John Byrne and James Nolan, who were beaten to death during the Lockout (large industrial dispute lasting from 1913 to 1914).

The RIC was a British crown force tasked with fighting against the IRA and Irish independence.

Many regarded the RIC as a the "eyes and ears" of the British government in Ireland at the time and they were accused of identifying many of those who took part in the Easter Rising in 1916 - many of the leaders were executed on orders from British army officer, General John Maxwell, in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.

In 1919 the British government strengthened the RIC with the introduction of the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve (aka the Black and Tans) - a group comprising of former British soldiers.

The Black and Tans were notorious for targeting Irish civilians and sacked many towns and villages, including the burning of Cork in December 1920.

The damage in Cork was estimated as costing £3 million at the time - this was equivalent to £155 million in 2019.

The RIC was disbanded in 1922 and was superseded by the Garda Síochána and the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the south and north of Ireland respectively.