RIC controversy: Fine Gael councillors hit out at decision to hold commemoration

Messages to private party Whatsapp group say the Government performed ‘own goal’

 RIC men on platform at an unidentified train station.

RIC men on platform at an unidentified train station.

 

A number of Fine Gael councillors and general election candidates have hit out at the decision to hold a commemoration of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police amid a stream of complaints from constituents and party members.

More than 100 messages were sent into a private Whatsapp group of Fine Gael councillors in the last day with some complaining that Fine Gael had performed an “own goal” in the controversy around the commemoration, sources have said.

Councillors in the group expressed concern about the political reaction, said the situation was “going down extremely badly” with others saying many party members were against the event which is due to be held in Dublin Castle on January 17th .

Senior Fine Gael TDs have reported receiving large numbers of complaints from constituents. One TD said they had received over 50 complaints.

Furthermore, the party’s general election candidate in Waterford and councillor Damien Geoghegan has called for the event to be cancelled.

“As a Fine Gael public rep, party-member and general election candidate for the party, I’ve contacted the Taoiseach directly and requested that the forthcoming commemoration of the RIC/DMP be cancelled,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

“In my opinion, the proposal is unacceptable and is far too divisive.”

Dublin councillor Ray McAdam said the Decade of Centenaries was the wrong vehicle by which to address the issue. However he said it would be too damaging for the party to cancel or postpone the event at this stage.

“My view is at this stage it would be more damaging to postpone or defer the ceremony. If you’re proposing to do such a thing, you may as well go ahead and do it now. It would be more damaging to the Government to postpone it. But I do not agree with it, I just think the RIC and the DMP were on the wrong side of history.”

In a private party Whatsapp group, dozens of Fine Gael councillors have weighed in on the issue with the discussion turning “intemperate,” a source said.

“There are some in the group writing that this is a terrible own goal for the party. There are a pile of messages coming in. A lot of councillors are angry and feel it was the wrong time to do this, weeks before an election. Some were asking why we could not hold it at the end of this year. There are others who are saying that other parties are deliberately misrepresenting the issue to create a ruckus.”

Another source said the discussion had turned “intemperate” at times. “It is pretty mixed. There are people voicing concerns about the reaction politically speaking. Some people are saying basically, for god’s sake, we are not ready for a debate on a united Ireland if we can’t deal with this.”

Boxer Moran

MEanwhile Minister of State responsible for Dublin Castle says he will not attend next week’s commemoration of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police.

Independent Alliance TD Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran - who, as Minister for State for the Office of Public Works, is responsible for Dublin Castle, where the event is due to beheld - said debate around the commemoration in recent days “reflects the serious sensitivities and concerns that people have some 100 years after the country’s struggle for independence”.

He called for the event to be postponed, and confirmed he will not be attending Dublin Castle for the ceremony . It is understood his party colleague Finnian McGrath will also not attend.

“I believe it should be postponed to allow for greater reflection on how best to deal with the wider issue of such commemorations,” Mr Moran said.

“We are at a very sensitive period in our historic 100 year anniversaries and the planned commemoration of members who served in the RIC and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) prior to independence while being led by good intentions, has failed to recognise the deep-seated feelings surrounding the force.

“We must respect the sincerely held feelings of people on the matter and note the historical record of how policing was carried out in the State from when the RIC was formed in 1836 and which ultimately led to the declaration in April 2019 by Dáil Éireann to boycott the police service.

“I believe it would be wrong that this difficult period of Irish history that we are about to commemorate and which led to our independence to ignore the firmly held convictions by the general public.”

In a series of tweets on Tuesday Taoiseach Leo Varadkar defended the Government’s stance.

Mr Varadkar said the RIC/DMP commemoration “is not a celebration. 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.”

“We should respect all traditions on our island and be mature enough as a State to acknowledge all aspects of our past.”

Separately John Pratt, the Labour Lord Mayor of Waterford, has become the latest mayor to say he will not attend the event.