THE IRISH government are deferring the planned ceremony commemorating the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police following severe backlash from politicians and the public.
The controversial plans had drawn criticism from cross-party politicians and members of the public, with numerous high-profile councillors and mayors announcing their intention to boycott the event.
Dublin City Council had voted overwhelmingly to boycott the ceremony, citing the RIC and DMP's "intolerable record of barbarism" while in power in Ireland before independence.
The Lord Mayor of Cork, John Sheehan rejected the event, saying "[...]you are commemorating an institution that does not have a good history in Ireland and took the side of the Black and Tans during the War of Independence."
To attend the event would not be appropriate, Mr Sheehan said, "Particularly given Cork’s history with the Black and Tans. The RIC were part of that.”
The Mayors of Limerick, Clare, Kerry and Galway were also among those announcing their intention to boycott the event.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had previously said it was "regrettable" that politicians were choosing not to attend, saying that "ten or fifteen years ago it was very controversial to commemorate the deaths of soldiers in World War One, as people felt they shouldn't be remembered because they fought for the United Kingdom, they fought for the British. That has changed."
Despite the controversies, Mr Varadkar insisted that "the government stands over the decision to uphold the event".
We should respect all traditions on our island and be mature enough as a State to acknowledge all aspects of our past.
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) January 7, 2020
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, who was due to speak at the event, stood by the government's decision to hold the commemoration, saying:
"We very much support the recommendation that there should be specific State-led initiatives to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP)"
He then confirmed that the ceremony would not go ahead due to the severe public backlash.
"Given the disappointing response of some to the planned event on 17th January, I do not believe that the event, as planned, can now take place in an atmosphere that meets the goals and guiding principles of the overall commemorative programme.
"Therefore, I am announcing its deferral."
Saying that "this decision will be a cause of hurt and upset to many people", Mr Flanagan announced that there would be an alternative commemoration for the RIC and DMP later this year, however what this could involve is unclear.
Minister for Justice @CharlieFlanagan tells RTÉ's Six One News he firmly believes holding a commemoration for the Royal Irish Constabulary was the right thing to do and he is disappointed it is not going ahead | https://t.co/mXFm33nFmj pic.twitter.com/8Lg7OTOzPs
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 7, 2020
Speaking later on RTÉ News, Mr Flanagan reiterated that he believes the commemoration was "the right thing to do", insisting that "this was never going to be a eulogising of the Black and Tans, but rather a solemn and sombre event commemorating the tens of thousands of the members of the RIC and DMP".
Mr Flanagan had previously said that the Government planned the commemorations after consulting with the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on Centenery Commemoration as part of the Decade of Centenaries 2012 - 2023.
However, prominent Irish historian and member of the EAG Diarmaid Ferriter yesterday told RTÉ that Mr Flanagan had "misrepresented the position of the EAG", saying "what we had in mind was an academic event - a conference or seminar".
The EAG, Mr Ferriter said, "did not endorse the idea of a formal State commemoration for the RIC in the manner proposed".
"The EAG should not be used by the Government as a mudguard to provide cover for itself when it receives negative reaction to its solo runs in relation to commemoration."