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The Explainer: Why #blackandtans was trending in 2020 - and what's next for State commemorations?

We’re joined by two experts to discuss what went wrong and what we can learn from it.

IT WAS SUPPOSED to be fairly straightforward – a commemoration for those who served in the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), to be held in Dublin Castle this month.

But as soon as the event was publicised last week, the criticism and questions began to roll in for the government.

By last weekend, #blackandtans was trending on Twitter, and come Monday of this week the Taoiseach was having to defend the event after several invited politicians said they would not be attending.

Then came a statement from Diarmaid Ferriter of the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on Wednesday. The EAG had advised the government on all the Decade of Centenaries events – and Ferriter said that they didn’t recommend the type of RIC commemoration that was due to take place.

By the end of that day, the 17 January event was cancelled.

So, what happened, and why was this event so heavily criticised? What does it tell us about how Ireland commemorates its past, and do we have more issues facing us as we continue to celebrate the Decade of Centenaries?

That’s what we discuss on this week’s The Explainer podcast. Deputy Editor of, Christine Bohan (executive producer of this podcast), joins Editor and presenter Sinéad O’Carroll, UCD lecturer in gender studies, Dr Mary McAuliffe and EAG member and Trinity professor of modern history Eunan O’Halpin to examine what happened and what we can learn from it.

Further reading

As this is an important and often nuanced topic, we’re also including some resources for if you’d like to do some further reading. 

Two books about the topic of policing in 20th century Ireland:

  • Policing Twentieth Century Ireland: A History of An Garda Síochána, by Dr Vicky Conway
  • The Black and Tans: British Police and Auxiliaries in the Irish War of Independence 1920-1921 by David Leeson

A piece on the colonial legacy of policing in Ireland on RTÉ.

History Ireland explains: Who were the Black and Tans?

Our explainer on who were the RIC?

Twitter is also a great place to follow historians and see their take on things. Here are some we recommend:

Dr McAuliffe wrote a piece for our Voices section on the commemoration, in the days before it was cancelled.

You can research your own family history through the National Military Archives and the digitised census records.

Here is the official website for the Decade of Centenaries.

The Explainer / SoundCloud

This episode was put together by presenter Sinéad O’Carroll, producer Aoife Barry, assistant producer and technical operator Nicky Ryan, and executive producer Christine Bohan. Design by Palash Somani.

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