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29 Jan 2022

‘We are owed an apology from the government’, Longford council meeting hears

RIC Commemoration: Councillors slam proposed RIC commemoration ceremony

‘We are owed an apology from the government’, Longford council meeting hears

The RIC commemoration plans were the subject of much discussion at last week's meeting of Longford County Council

At a recent meeting of Longford county council’s elected representatives, Cllr Martin Monaghan tabled a motion calling on the council to not support any future RIC commemoration events.

He said: “I call that we as a council, and with the support of my fellow colleagues, recommend that we do not support the commemorations for the RIC.

“This is something our ancestors would never forgive us for, showing support for a force that terrified our people in their fight for freedom.

“It is very personal to me. I know it has been postponed but I would like to know where we stand.”

Cllr Colm Murray wished to acknowledge the annoyance of a number of people in relation to the proposed commemoration, though he called for recognition for RIC members who were not known enemies of the state.

He said: “I don’t think it was handled well by the commemorative committee.

“There were people in the RIC, and I am not talking about the Black & Tans, that worked hard in the years coming up to Independence. They worked hard in the background to frustrate the efforts of the crowned forces.

“Most of the ordinary constables on the ground were working class catholic and protestant people, who had independence at heart and wanted to contribute towards that and did contribute towards that. I think it is important that some note is given to them at some point, in a commemorative process.”

Although offering his support of the motion, Cllr Murray called for the rewording of it.

Read also: ‘Our ancestors would never forgive us’, says Longford councillor of RIC commemoration

He said: “I agree with the principal of the motion, but would be happier if it was reworded - if RIC was taken out of it and Black and Tans and auxiliaries put in.

“They were the animals that came in and terrorised people, burned them out of their houses, burnt several villages here in Co Longford. They were the ones who perpetrated the major violence around our country at the time of independence.”

This request was met with a firm answer from fellow representatives in the chamber, with Cllr Mark Casey saying Black and Tans cannot be separated from RIC officers.

He fumed: “You can’t separate the Black & Tan’s from the RIC. The Black & Tans were brought in to assist RIC officers in what they were doing.

“The fact of the matter is they were oppressing Irish people, supporting crowned forces against the Irish people who were fighting for freedom.

“It was an absolute ludicrous proposal. Ye went ahead with it and ye are going to bear the brunt of it at the election. And you know what, I don’t feel sorry for ye.”

Cllr Joe Flaherty described the events of last week ‘emotionally charged’ , before he also issued opposition to Cllr Murray’s request for the rewording of the motion, pointing to the high number of RIC stations once in the county.

He said: “The reality is the RIC by 1920 was a forerunner for the Black & Tans and auxiliaries.”

That being said, Cllr Flaherty then stressed the importance of commemoration services.

He noted: “The whole concept of commemorations is very important. We can’t move forward as a country without acknowledging our past.

“We will have many difficult instances in the county over the next three years that we are going to have to acknowledge.

“If we find this discussion difficult, we are going to find the next one even more difficult.

“I do agree with Cllr Monaghan that what was proposed earlier in the week was wrong. At the same time, we have to look at our past and see how our past informs our future,” he continued.

Cllr Seamus Butler echoed the sentiments of Cllr Monaghan’s motion, saying the situation was handled ' 'atrociously'.

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

He stated: “I support this motion in that I think this was atrociously handled by the government.

“In an organisation, there can be good and bad people, but their actual membership of the organisation defines a lot of them. There were informants in it, but there were also assassins, blatant assassins in RIC.

“People who had a direct family connection with these people, like the Monaghan family, have been mortally offended in a number of ways.”

Cllr Butler then called for the government to apologise for the fiasco.

“I think we are owed an apology from the government and not just a postponement,” he said.

Cllr Mick Cahill described the controversy as a ‘very serious matter’, before noting that some sort of commemoration should be held.

“I think the events should be commemorated in some way, but we can’t tarnish them all with one brush.

“There is no way, under any circumstances, can we support anything to do with auxiliaries and Black and Tans.

“I think there should be some respectful way of remembering some of them, as deemed appropriate by local communities. I certainly think going forward there are some serious lessons to be learned.”

The chamber then agreed with Cllr Monaghan's motion and in future, should the issue of an RIC commemoration resurface, the council will not issue their support.

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

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