‘Honouring the memory of RIC men’
Sir, – Stephen Collins ignores certain obvious facts about the RIC during the War of Independence (“State still cannot bring itself to honour the memory of RIC men”, Opinion & Analysis, September 27th).
With the first meeting of the democratically elected and popularly sanctioned Dáil Éireann, Óglaigh na hÉireann, under the command of Michael Collins, was the sole legitimate police and military force in the State. The RIC was acting extra-judicially from that date onward.
Further, there is no evidence that the RIC had ever enjoyed widespread public support, or that it was ever viewed as anything but the arm of an undemocratic colonial government.
This is unsurprising in light of the RIC’s vicious behaviour during the Famine and the Land War, where they were responsible for evicting tens of thousands of people.
Your columnist’s remarks on Fr Francis Shaw’s estimation of Cúchulainn (of all people) should be put in the context of Fr Shaw’s much-quoted article. Fr Shaw told us that Cúchulainn was not a suitable exemplar for the reason that his morals (sexual and otherwise) were distinctly anti-Catholic.
It would be laughable, were it not the case that the Jesuit was sincere in his belief.
Few people would have difficulties in a service that would remember members of the RIC. But decent people will always have objections to them being “honoured”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Those who advocate for remembrance of the RIC fall into the trap of equivalence. “They were all brave men ... they did their duty”. The RIC men were explicitly not ordinary policemen but a garrisoned and militarised force. These men were paid agents who served the British crown and sought to prevent the emergence of an independent state as overwhelmingly ordained by the Irish people in the free election of 1918. The atrocities committed by RIC members and their support for the Auxiliaries and Black and Tans are well documented.
The RIC and Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) were regarded as being the eyes and ears of Dublin Castle and as such were targeted because of their role as local representatives of and intelligence gatherers for the British terror apparatus in Ireland. In rural areas, many small shopkeepers refused to serve the RIC and its family members, forcing them to receive their food and other necessities from miles away.
The vexed question of remembrance has seldom been better addressed than by Frederick Douglass, former slave and confidante of Abraham Lincoln.
Douglass’s speech 30 years after the end of the American Civil War still resonates on this issue. “There was a right side and a wrong side in the late war which no sentiment ought to cause us to forget. While today we should have malice towards none and charity to all, it is no part of our duty to confound right with wrong or loyalty with treason. Fellow citizens, I am not indifferent to the claims of a genuine forgetfulness, but whatever else I may forget, I shall never forget the difference between those who fought for liberty and those who fought against it; between those who fought to save the republic and those who fought to destroy it.” – Yours, etc,
Dr BRIAN O’CONNOR,
Sir, – There were a lot of native-born RIC men in the force keeping law and order against what was seen in those days as insurrection happening around them. My relatives, proud Irishmen, were in the RIC to uphold law and order and went about their work in daily fear that they or their family might be targeted by “freedom fighters” who were not averse to committing their own atrocities. –Yours, etc,