RIC commemoration not appropriate - victims' descendant

Cyril Jones agrees with Clare mayor Cathal Crowe’s boycotting of RIC commemoration

Cyril Jones at home in Miltown Malbay, Co Clare with a piece of the diningroom table that has a Black and Tan bullet hole from the War of Independence. Photograph: Eamon Ward for The Irish Times

Cyril Jones at home in Miltown Malbay, Co Clare with a piece of the diningroom table that has a Black and Tan bullet hole from the War of Independence. Photograph: Eamon Ward for The Irish Times

 

A six-inch-long fragment of timber hangs framed on the wall of Cyril Jones’s sittingroom in Miltown Malbay, coupled with a handwritten note from his deceased mother, Katherine, about a night of violence almost a century ago.

The fragment comes from a kitchen table taken from the ruins of his father’s home and business in the Clare town after it was burned by a combined force of Royal Irish Constabulary and Black and Tans on September 22nd, 1920.

Six RIC officers had been killed earlier in the day by IRA members in a carefully planned ambush at Dromin Hill in Rineen, led by Ignatius O’Neill, who had served in the trenches with the Irish Guards during the first World War.

Hours later, the combined RIC/Black and Tans force, many of them drunk, burned 16 homes and businesses in Miltown Malbay, Lahinch and Ennistymon, killing five people.

A certain amount of it is all right, as long as it’s done in a dignified way without going overboard

Shots were fired into the Joneses’ house and shop, before it was set alight. John “Jackie” Jones, the IRA’s local head of intelligence, and his family fled out the back door, hiding in the fields while the house burned.

Today, Cyril Jones says he supports the decision of the Mayor of Clare, Cathal Crowe of Fianna Fáil, to boycott a commemoration service for the RIC due to take place later this month.

Appropriate

While it is important to remember the past, the commemoration planned by the State in Dublin Castle is not the appropriate way to remember the RIC, Mr Jones told The Irish Times.

“Personally, I wouldn’t attend something like that. I would acknowledge that something has to be done. A certain amount of it is all right, as long as it’s done in a dignified way without going overboard,” said Mr Jones.

“I would support Cathal Crowe. His attitude towards this would be my attitude as well. I wouldn’t be talking too much about it and making it into a big deal. I’d acknowledge that it happened, all right, but in a dignified way.”

It’s only in the last 20 or 30 years that we are starting to hear about this properly

Four years ago, Mr Jones welcomed relations of the six RIC members killed at Rineen at the 95th anniversary commemoration.

“It was explained to them that there were no hard feelings. It all happened in a dignified way,” said Mr Jones.

“It’s part of our history but it was never on the curriculum going to school. It’s only in the last 20 or 30 years that we are starting to hear about this properly. It should be recorded, it shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet.”

The burning was a heavy blow for the family. “All their worldly possessions were destroyed except for a table, with a bullet hole in it from a shot fired into the house by the RIC, which was rescued from the burning building by neighbours.

“They had to start all over again. I don’t know how they managed to rebuild, to be honest, they wouldn’t have had much money. All of those people had to start from scratch again.”

Indiscriminate

The RIC and Black and Tans had “plenty of drink taken before they arrived” and opened with indiscriminate fire. “All the people on our street ran out their back doors and out into the fields to hide for the night,” he said.

There is a difference between a proper historical understanding and a commemoration

“They [RIC and the Black and Tans] really went on the rampage after that. They moved on to Lahinch and on to Ennistymon. There were an awful lot of atrocities committed that night.”

Clare historian and War of Independence scholar Dr Tomás Mac Conmara says the RIC should be acknowledged, but not commemorated because it was “responsible for a pretty brutal attempt to suppress the drive for independence”.

“It seems counter-intuitive to me for the Irish State to celebrate an organisation that, if it was successful, would have prevented independence,” said Dr Mac Conmara. “There is a difference between a proper historical understanding and a commemoration. What is planned is a commemoration.”