Leo Varadkar says reunification of Ireland less likely after Royal Irish Constabulary backlash

Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, believes the recent backlash to his government's decision to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) has rendered the reunification of Ireland less likely.

The event, which was scheduled to take place in Dublin Castle on January 17, was part of a state initiative to mark what has been described a a decade of centenaries.

Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, was forced to defer the event on Tuesday after a significant kickback from the public.

“It is my deep regret that this week, embracing that shared history; moving towards a united Ireland seems to me to be a little bit further away than it was before,” he said.

“I regret that this is a setback for unity and a setback for reconciliation," added the Taoiseach.

The public reaction to the commemoration was 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.

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."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the coat of arms belonging to the RIC.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the coat of arms belonging to the RIC.

Compounding the government's position was the decision by elected representatives who said they would not be attending the commemoration.

An Change.org petition designed to force the government to cancel the event received almost 50,000 signatures.

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.

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.