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Monday 27 March 2023 Dublin: 0°C
Leah Farrell via Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin
'An error of judgement': Martin criticises RIC commemoration but says those attending should be respected
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said the event “should be cancelled”.

LAST UPDATE | Jan 7th 2020, 2:10 PM

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Michéal Martin has said the national commemoration service for the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) on 17 January was “an error of judgement”, but that those who wish to participate “should be fully respected”. 

Martin’s comments come in the wake of Dublin City Council’s vote last night to boycott the commemoration service. 

It also comes as a number of Fianna Fáil politicians – such as the Mayor of Clare, Cathal Crowe, and Cork Councillor John Sheehan – have confirmed in recent days that they will not attend the event, despite being invited. 

The government has confirmed plans to commemorate those who served in the RIC and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) prior to Irish independence. Both groups were disbanded in 1922 following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

The event, which will be held at Dublin Castle, will be attended by the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. 

In a statement this afternoon, Martin said that there needs to be a “calm and mature discussion” surrounding the event. 

“An all-inclusive event, remembering all who died during the War of Independence is already scheduled and it was understood by all involved that this would be an appropriate moment to demonstrate that we also remember those who did not support the struggle for national independence which was secured by the men and women who are the focus of the many other events,” Martin said. 

Martin said “it is undeniably true that many people joined the police force of the day for legitimate reasons but found themselves on the wrong side of history”. 

“Indeed, elements of the RIC worked closely with those fighting for Irish freedom at great personal risk. I am acutely conscious also of how this controversy, and some of the language being used in the debate surrounding it, will be received by different traditions in Northern Ireland,” he said. 

We need to have a calm and mature discussion. In my view, the event organised by the Justice Minister is not the appropriate vehicle to explore such complex themes. 
It was an error of judgement compounded by the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and their reaction to those who have decided not to participate. They should withdraw their accusation that, to quote Minister Flanagan, those who choose not to attend this event are abandoning ‘mutual understanding and reconciliation’. 

He said that Ireland needs to “rediscover the generosity that informed the 1916 commemorations and return to the open engagement and consultation of that process”. 

However, Martin confirmed the “event will go ahead”, adding that “those who wish to participate in it should be fully respected in doing so”.  

He went on to say that the special cross-party committee on commemorations should be reconvened to consult on future commemorations. 

He added that “it be asked to look again at the question of how we appropriately appraise and remember the activities of the RIC and the DMP over the course of the coming years”. 

During an interview with Newstalk’s The Hard Shoulder this evening, Martin was asked whether he would be attending the event, to which he said no party leaders had been invited.

‘Not a celebration’

This morning, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the RIC commemoration “is not a celebration”. 

“It’s about remembering our history, not condoning what happened,” Varadkar said in a tweet. 

“We will also remember the terrible burning of Cork, Balbriggan, partition and the atrocities of the Civil War,” he said.

“We should respect all traditions on our island and be mature enough as a State to acknowledge all aspects of our past.”

Varadkar yesterday 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. 

Speaking to reporters about the event this afternoon, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he is “supportive of the approach that has been taken in this area”.

“The reason for that is this is not about in anyway celebrating what’s happened in the past. What it’s simply about is commemorating it and leading to a better understanding of the complexity of Irish history,” Donohoe said. 

“We are now entering a commemorative period that is going to be very, very complex. We are entering a commemorative period where we will be looking back at events and periods within our history in which feelings will still run high,” he said.

Donohoe added that “the purpose of the commemorative period is to allow an acknowledgment and then debate regarding what’s happened in our past”. 

When asked whether the event should be postponed, Donohoe said: “We’re getting into a space here, of course, where how I answer that question creates a sense of conflict within government in relation to it.”

He said there is no doubt that there will be further discussions about the matter in the run up to Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.


Speaking to Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show this morning, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the event “should be cancelled”. 

I think it is disrespectful, I think it is ill-advised. I think it has caused a divisive atmosphere, entirely unnecessarily.
I think it is wrong … for the Irish state to commemorate those forces that acted violently and consistently to suppress Irish freedom, a force at the hands of which Irish citizens suffered and died.

“The Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice and others in the Irish political establishment should recognise and remember that there would be no government in Dublin, there would be no Office of an Taoiseach or any other ministry but for those people who went out and who took on the Black and Tans at great personal cost, and their families and communities still remember them,” McDonald said.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is responsible for Dublin Castle, where the event is due to take place. 

Today, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, the junior minister with responsibility for the OPW, has confirmed he will not be attending the event. 

He said the event “should be postponed to allow for greater reflection on how best to deal with the wider issue of such commemorations”. 

“We are at a very sensitive period in our history 100-year anniversary and the planned commemoration of members who served in the RIC and the DMP prior to independence, while being led by good intentions, has failed to recognise the deep-seated feelings surrounding the force,” Moran said.

Meanwhile, Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín has said he has issued an invitation to civic and political organisations to attend a dignified protest in opposition to the commemoration. 

“On 17 January, we are asking people to assemble at the Dame Street gate of Dublin Castle to show opposition to the government’s proposed commemoration of the RIC and the DMP,” Tóibín said. 

“We are asking people to attend to do justice to the memory of those who sacrificed everything to create a free and democratic Irish Republic,” he said.

Includes reporting by Cónal Thomas and Christina Finn

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