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Diarmaid Ferriter: Expert Advisory Group 'did not recommend State commemoration of the RIC'

Ferriter, a member of the EAG, told TheJournal.ie today that the group had envisioned an academic event such as a conference or seminar.

Image: Julien Behal

THE EXPERT ADVISORY Group for the government’s Decade of Centenaries programme did not recommend the planned commemoration event for the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), one of its members said today.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, EAG member and Professor of Modern Irish History at UCD Diarmaid Ferriter said that Minister Charlie Flanagan issued a statement yesterday which, in his view, “misrepresents the position of the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) in relation to commemoration of the RIC”.

He said that Minister Flanagan “should not refer to the event on 17 January in Dublin Castle as being as a result of our guidance”.

The commemoration has been the subject of some criticism over the past week. It aims to commemorate those who served in the RIC and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) prior to Irish independence. Due to attend the event are Minister Flanagan and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.

Last night, members of Dublin City Council voted to boycott the service. In addition, a number of politicians – including the Fianna Fáil Mayor of Clare, Cathal Crowe, and Fianna Fáil Cork Councillor John Sheehan – said in recent days that they will not attend the event. The hashtag #blackandtans has also been trending on Twitter as part of the discussion about the event.

Ferriter noted that in his statement yesterday, Minister Flanagan referred to the EAG as follows:

“As part of the Decade of Centenaries (2012-2023), under the guidance of the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemoration, I, on behalf of the Government, will host an event to commemorate the place of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police in Irish History.”

PastedImage-22826

However, Ferriter clarified today the nature of the EAG’s recommendation, saying:

“The EAG did not recommend or endorse the idea of a formal state commemoration for the RIC in the manner proposed.

“It is not included in the list of events and themes we suggested should be formally commemorated by the state. What we stated was that ‘consideration should be given to the organisation of specific initiatives to commemorate the RIC and the DMP and to acknowledge their place in history’.”

This can be read in the published guidance from the group:

PastedImage-5560 Source: Irish Museums

He said that what the EAG had in mind “was an academic event – a conference or seminar – that would look at the issue of policing in Ireland during the revolutionary period, including the role of and disbandment of the RIC and the foundation of the Civic Guard, which became An Garda Síochána”.

Ferriter said that 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”.

The EAG has “consistently maintained that commemoration should be locally rather than centrally led”, said Ferriter.

“At our meeting in October we agreed ‘that the commemorative model recommended by the Expert Advisory Group to mark the centenary of the Soloheadbeg Ambush is the correct approach to the observance of the sensitive and complex centenaries that will occur in 2020′,” said Ferriter. This was a community-led event.

‘This approach advocates a leading role for local authorities in supporting and driving community-led commemoration, augmented with appropriate State assistance and participation.’

The professor said that the proposed RIC commemoration due to be held later this month “does not follow that model; what is being proposed was not put before the EAG and therefore was not discussed by the EAG”.

Ferriter said that the EAG “is not an executive body; is an advisory group”.

Minister Flanagan has been contacted for comment.

Event

This morning, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar again defended the event, saying it is “not a celebration” and is “about remembering our history, not condoning what happened”.

Yesterday, he said it is “regrettable” that people have made the decision to boycott the event. 

“I remember 10, 15 years ago it was very controversial to commemorate the deaths of soldiers in World War I because some people felt that they shouldn’t be remembered because they fought for the United Kingdom,” he said. 

“That has changed. We now all accept, or almost everyone accepts, that it is right and proper to remember Irish people, soldiers who died in the first World War,” he continued. 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin criticised the planned commemoration but said that those attending should be respected.

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