Consensus needed 'if we are to do justice to the past', says Longford Cllr Joe Flaherty of deferred RIC commemoration

Plans for the commemoration were 'calamitous'

Jessica Thompson

Reporter:

Jessica Thompson

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jessica.thompson@longfordleader.ie

Planned RIC commemoration has been 'calamitous', says Longford Cllr Joe Flaherty

The RIC commemoration at Dublin Castle has been deferred

Local councillor and Fianna Fáil General Election candidate Joe Flaherty has released a statement regarding the now deferred commemoration of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP).

Cathaoirleachs from across the country were invited to the commemoration, which was due to take place next week but, following widespread criticism from TDs, elected representatives and members of the public, and plans by many cathaoirleachs and councils to boycott the event, the government has deferred it.

In a statement posted to his Facebook page, Cllr Flaherty said that the plans for the commemoration were "calamitous".

"For those who asked, I wasn't invited and would not have been attending," he said.

"We already had plans for an all-inclusive event to remember all who died during the War of Independence and this was the correct format to acknowledge those involved in the War who opposed the fight for freedom.

"We have a complex history and what many are quick to forget is that this State is still in its infancy – only last year we celebrated the centenary of the first Dáil.

Read also: 'In no other state would they celebrate the deeds of the oppressors', says Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy

"For many years, various governments have worked through a cross party expert group that processed proposals to commemorate key dates and anniversaries in our history. The process depended upon, and thrived on expert advice and public consultation.

"Such a group considered recommendations in connection with the commemoration of our War of Independence. It subsequently reported to the government and stated that the role of the RIC / DMP would have to be remembered. Crucially there was no discussion on what format this should take. It never recommended a commemoration as outlined by the Minister for Justice.

"As an emerging modern nation, it is vital that we explore, process and learn from all aspects of our past. The impending War of Independence anniversaries are an ideal opportunity for us to discuss a complex past. It requires a calm and objective discussion / debate and the proposed event to commemorate the role of the RIC / DMP in the War of Independence did not enable this.

"In what was one of the first significant actions in the War locally, Sean Connolly (subsequently shot along with six others at Selton Hill in Leitrim) and colleagues attacked the RIC Barracks in Drumlish 100 years ago yesterday. Over the next two years, we will have multiple and significant anniversary dates locally and nationally. We need to approach each of them in a spirit of enlightenment and a determination to learn from the past.

"On June 19, 1921, only three weeks before the truce that ended the war, IRA man, Tommy Kelleher shot an Auxiliary in Drumlish and was subsequently gunned down by ten RIC men. He is commemorated locally by a Celtic Cross known as the Kelleher Monument.

"Already today we have heard calls for the resumption of the cross-party committee on commemorations and this should happen immediately so that we can have a full and frank discussion on future commemorative events. What this escapade has highlighted is the need for consensus if we are to do justice to the past."

Read also: 'It would be wrong': Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran announces he will not attend RIC commemoration