RIC and DMP policemen to be commemorated for first time by State
Dublin Castle service to remember those killed in the War of Independence
Members of the Black and Tans, an armed auxiliary force of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and British Army privates watching fighting during the June 1922 siege of the Four Courts, the Dublin headquarters of the Republican forces during the Irish Civil War. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
The event, part of the State programme to mark the decade of centenaries, will take place in Dublin Castle on January 17th will be addressed by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.
The RIC was established in 1836 and disbanded after Irish independence in 1922. It operated in all parts of Ireland except in Dublin, where the DMP was the police force during the same period.
Mr Flanagan in September became the first Government Minister to attend a commemoration service for policemen killed by the IRA in the War of Independence.
Ministers have traditionally shied away from such services because of the role of both forces in opposing those who sought Irish independence through armed actions.
The armed RIC was in the vanguard of British resistance to the IRA during the War of Independence causing thousands to quit the force. Dáil Éireann organised a boycott of the force from April 1919 on and the mass burning of RIC barracks began in January 1920.
When the British government realised the RIC was not up to the task of defending British rule in Ireland, they drafted in the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries, mercenary soldiers from Britain, to take the fight to the IRA.
In September, Mr Flanagan was a guest at the annual interdenominational service for members of the RIC and DMP held at the Church of St Paul of the Cross in Mount Argus in Dublin.
The names of 11 RIC and four DMP men killed in 1919 during the first year of the War of Independence were read out.
Speaking to The Irish Times after the service, Mr Flanagan said he attended because the policemen involved were “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.”
Mr Flanagan described himself as a “pluralist who believes in the co-existence of peoples of different traditions on the island coming together.
“As Minister for Justice, I acknowledge that being a policeman is a very tough job. The men that we commemorated were all killed in the line of duty.”
He added: “I believe very strongly in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement and, in the spirit of co-existence. These are sensitive ceremonies and they are very important to me.
“The fundamental basis of the Good Friday Agreement brings people together. I see the fundamental principle of Brexit being the opposite.
“These are difficult and sensitive issues. We cannot any longer ignore them or be partisan. I believe I have a duty as Minister for Justice to police officers.”
The decision by the State to hold a service to remember the RIC and DMP has been welcomed by the Historical & Reconciliatory Police (HARP) Society set up in 2012 to remember Irish policemen killed on duty between 1836 and 1922 of whom 525 were killed during the War of Independence.
Spokesman Jim Herlihy said: “The Harp Society are delighted with the initiative now taken by Government in at long last hosting the forthcoming event in Dublin Castle and are also in hope that such an event will lead to the provision of a fitting permanent memorial to commemorate the sacrifice made by the 642 members of Royal Irish Constabulary and the 30 members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police between 1836 and 1922.”
Mr Herlihy said his extensive research over the last number of years reveals that 10,936 Black and Tans and 2,264 Auxiliaries served in Ireland during the War of Independence.
Of those, 152 Black and Tans and 44 Auxiliaries were killed.
His research also reveals that 883 Black and Tans were Irish-born and 126 Auxiliaries were Irish.