Role of Royal Irish Constabulary
Sir, – One of my great-grandfathers was a member of the RIC; another was an IRA volunteer. I am told that both men were decent and honourable, but my sympathies lie with the man who fought for an Irish republic.
Some commentators argue that an armed conflict between Ireland and Britain was unnecessary because Home Rule had been passed in 1914. However, they minimise the fact that the British were planning to partition Ireland against the will of the majority of its citizens.
They also fail to appreciate the gulf between what Home Rule meant in reality and what it meant to ordinary Irish nationalists. Indeed, Home Rule was a very limited measure of self-government, much less than what John Redmond and his supporters desired, and much less than the significant degree of independence won for the 26 counties by the IRA’s guerrilla war of 1919-21.
It is unlikely that the British would have conceded independence at that time without a fight. Their reaction to the result of the 1918 general election suggests this much. When the uncontested Irish constituencies in that election are taken into account, it is clear that a majority of the electorate in Ireland supported Sinn Féin, a party that advocated an Irish republic. The British ignored this and the RIC sided with them. I believe the RIC was wrong.
I have no difficulty commemorating my great-grandfather Michael Gallagher and the other members of the RIC. However, I do object to the campaign to de-legitimise the contribution of my other great-grandfather, Dominic O’Grady, who fought for meaningful independence for this country.
St Peter’s Square,
Sir, - The predictable call to commemorate the RIC is hardly surprising. However, are we that self-loathing to really want to celebrate the actions of our colonial police force?
Can you imagine such calls being made in India, Africa or the United States? Are we that prostrate as a people? Why stop there? Maybe we should also celebrate the yeomanry, militia and other “defenders” of the Irish people over the centuries?
Dr GORDON KENNEDY,
Sir, – We should indeed commemorate those members of the Royal Irish Constabulary who assisted the independence movement in 1919-1922 out of political conviction (Opinion-Analysis, August 1st). But we should not honour those who upheld British rule in Ireland. Let us never forget that it was the RIC [or its predecessors] that prosecuted Britain’s “tithe war” in Ireland 1831-1836, in which hundreds of ordinary people were killed for resisting this unjust tax in outrages across the country.
The RIC and soldiers were always at hand to quell resistance at evictions conducted by the landlords’ bailiffs and their goons. I understand the motivation of some to accommodate the sensibilities of the unionist tradition and who feel that acknowledgement of the RIC would signify some sort of gesture of respect and reconciliation. But to do so would be a great disservice to those who fought the RIC to win freedom for the people, particularly in the great struggles against landlordism.
You would never see the Americans honouring the Tory loyalists that fought against their ancestors in the American revolution.
MÁRTAN Ó CONGHAILE,