APPEAL TO ACT IN SELF-RESPECT – an open letter

Diarmuid Breatnach

Friends and Comrades, self-respecting people of all organisations and none, Irish or migrants, who understand what it is to resist colonialism and imperialism and exploitation of labour: this is an appeal to act in defence of our self-respect.

As you must all be aware by now, the current Government of the Irish State plans to hold an event honouring the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police in Dublin on the 17th of this month. Some at least are probably already considering how to react to this shameful event; I hope you are and if so, that you will give my suggestions some consideration. If you have not yet decided to respond to this event then I hope all the more that you will consider what I have to say.

The need to protest this event in a large and unified way is great. It is a matter of our self-respect as a nation, as a colonised people (and colonised peoples) that never ceased resisting, as workers, as trade unionists, as Irish Republicans and all varieties of the Left in Ireland.

The RIC and the DMP were not only the eyes and ears of the English colonist regime but also its first rank arm of repression after the British Army; they were the enforcement bodies of the landlords and bosses.

RIC still on site after assisting an eviction — see the battering ram that was used by the bailiffs to demolish much of the wall. (Photo source: Internet)

ROYAL IRISH CONSTABULARY

          Formed in 1822, the armed nationwide Irish Constabulary got the “Royal” appellation from Victoria, the Famine Queen herself, in recognition of that organisation’s role in the suppression of the Fenian uprising of 1867. During the evictions of poor peasants and agricultural labourers from their lowly cottages and huts, the RIC attended every one, having become the FIRST RANK force of repression in Ireland, the Army being relegated to their backup should it be required. The RIC was the ever-present force of repression during the Tithes War, the Great Hunger and the Land War and was the main force responsible for the suppression of the Young Irelanders in 1848. On 5th May 1882 in Ballina, Co. Mayo, there were children among the slain when the RIC opened fire on a demonstration celebrating the release of the Land League leader prisoners.

RIC constables assisting eviction of Thomas Considine and family, Moyasta, Co. Clare 1767.
(Source photo: Internet)

During the 1916 Rising, the RIC again played its part in repression of the resistance movement, particularly outside Dublin and it was they who attacked the Kent house in Cork, killing one son and arresting two others, including Thomas Kent which the British colonial regime executed, being one of the Sixteen the British killed in reprisal for the Rising. The RIC was the principal organisation supplying the names of non-participants in the Rising to be arrested and interned in jails and concentration camps in Britain.

After the Rising, the RIC continued one of its main roles as the eyes and ears of the British occupation in Ireland, collecting information on anyone who sang patriotic songs, spoke for independence or against the landlords, joined an Irish cultural organisation, agitated for women’s suffrage, organised a trade union branch ….

It was largely due to this role that the armed Republican forces made the RIC its first target in the War of Independence and in fact, the very first shots of that war were fired at the RIC in Soloheadbeg, killing two of them – this very month, 21st January 1919, 101 years ago and only four days after the date upon which this quisling State plans to honour that force.

RIC assisting bailiffs carrying out an eviction. The defenders have blocked the door with thorn brush and are throwing hot water out on their attackers.
(Source photo: Internet)

When the “Black and Tans” and “Auxiliaries”, the RIC Special Reserve and the RIC Auxiliary Division to give them their official titles, were dispatched in March 1920 at Churchill’s initiative to terrorise and murder Irish people, outside Dublin they became part of the of the RIC and from then on, the existing RIC became responsible not only for its prior crimes but for those of the ‘Tans and Auxies too, such as the many murders, including those of the Mayors of Cork and Limerick; the torture of suspects and violation of women; the burning of farmhouses and cooperatives and even of villages and towns: Tuam, Trim, Balbriggan, Knockcroghery, Thurles and Cork – among others.

In 1922, while the RIC ceased to exist in the ‘Free State’, they became the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the Six Counties, with their even-more murderous reserve, the B-Specials. The B-Specials were incorporated into the Ulster Defence Regiment in 1970 and the RUC was renamed the PSNI (Police Force of Northern Ireland) in 2001. Both organisations have been active in carrying out or in collusion with sectarian murders, acting as members or in collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries and under British intelligence operatives.

Bailiffs using battering ram to gain entry to evict a family in Ireland. The RIC are present to protect the bailiffs. (Photo source: Internet)
RIC King Street barracks after attack during War of Independence.
(Photo source: Internet)

DUBLIN METROPOLITAN POLICE

          The DMP was the colonial police force specifically responsible for controlling Dublin, the capital city of the colony. During the 1913 Lockout it showed itself capable of serving Irish capitalists, whether native or of colonist background, without discrimination. Indeed the leader of the Dublin 400 capitalists out to break the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, was an Irish nationalist, Catholic and owner of The Irish Independent: William Martin Murphy.

Apart from any others this force of tall thugs may have killed or fatally injured with beatings in their cells, the DMP killed a number of workers during the eight months of the struggle, raided houses and sent many to jail. Two workers, James Nolan and John Burke, died of their injuries within days of the DMP’s baton charge on a street meeting in Eden Quay just by Liberty Hall on 30th August 1913. The following day, in what became known as Bloody Sunday Dublin 1913, the DMP was in action again on O’Connell Street and in Princes Street, mercilessly beating people there (including those already knocked down), during which they knocked unconscious Patsy O’Connor, a young Fianna boy of 16 giving first aid to one of the wounded. Patsy died two years later from his injuries at the age of 18.

The DMP in action on O’Connell St on Bloody Sunday 1913, the second day of police riots in Dublin, early during the Lockout.
(Photo source: Internet)

In a rage at the defence by the residents of Corporation Flats of people fleeing the police charge on Eden Quay, the DMP returned there on the 31st, leaving hardly a door or stick of furniture unbroken or person unbeaten, including women and children.

The special political secret police in Dublin were the G Division of the DMP, spying and compiling files on active nationalists, republicans, socialists, suffragettes, Irish speakers, pacifists. After the Surrender of the 1916 Rising, it was they who came among the prisoners to identify them for the British Army, leading to many receiving death and jail sentences. During the 1916 Rising it appears that three DMP officers were killed by the Irish Citizen Army – while many hid in their cells.

Arrest of Jim Larkin by DMP, shortly before the rest of the DMP present attacked supporters and onlookers.
(Photo source: Internet)

During the War of Independence, the DMP G Division spied on and targeted Irish Republicans and other dissident groups. The Irish Republican Army of course targeted this force and killed a number of them. On the day when the IRA mobilised in Dublin to eliminate the special British Army counterinsurgency intelligence network, the DMP and the Auxiliaries seconded to them had already murdered Conor Clune and Volunteers Peadar Clancy and Dick McKee in Dublin Castle.

Later that day, the DMP and RIC went down to attack the GAA and murdered 14 unarmed people, including two players on the field, also injuring 60-70 people.

Aftermath of DMP baton attack on Sinn Féin public meeting in front of ruins of Liberty Hall to arrest Cathal Brugha and George Snr. Plunkett. Inspector John Mills was struck on the head by a hurley and died later in Jervis St. Hospital. His assailant was a member of Na Fianna and he was never apprehended. Mills was the first DMP officer killed after 1916 and the blow was probably not intended to be fatal. A number were shot with intention to kill during the War of Independence.
(Photo source: Internet)

AN ADEQUATE PUBLIC RESPONSE IS NECESSARY

          It is not only appropriate but absolutely necessary, as a matter of self-respect, that we mobilise a public opposition to this disgusting honouring of the spies on our people and the murderers of our martyrs.

There are many ways that this can be done but I would humbly suggest that two in particular are necessary:

  1. A mass public demonstration near the day of the ceremony (or at least near it) and near Dublin Castle (where the event is to be held);

  2. An electronic petition something along the lines of “Self-Respect: Against honouring colonial spies and murderers of our martyrs”.

          Although our people have achieved a number of successes in struggle over the years, we have often failed too. In particular we failed to give an adequate response to the visit of the British Queen (and Commander-in-Chief of the Paratroopers) to Dublin, or to Wall of Shame in Glasnevin Cemetery. There were some other visits of notable imperialists which also did not receive an adequate response.

Failure is not fatal and we can recover from it – but we cannot build on failure. We can only build on success. This public response needs to be a success and in order to achieve that it cannot be the response of one organisation or of two but needs to be a broad one in which anyone can take part who are not racists or fascists. In order to achieve that, the organising committee should be broad enough to include activists from across the oppositional spectrum who are not part of a party of government (or part of previous government) in either jurisdiction in Ireland. Such an organising committee should be able to include representatives of socialist and republican parties and collectives and also trade unionists.

A broad demonstration of that kind should be free of paramilitary displays which would represent only a section and quite probably alienate another. But all Irish and migrant community and trade union flags and banners should be permitted (with the exception of racist or fascist ones) and the broad banner on the front should spell the general theme of the demonstration.

I am conscious that I am nobody in particular to make this call but given that I think such a response is necessary and that I really want to see this, I make the call anyway and pledge myself to help.

End.

FURTHER INFORMATION LINKS

Report on planned commemoration by the Government: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/ric-and-dmp-policemen-to-be-commemorated-for-first-time-by-state-1.4128214

Collection of letters protesting whitewashing of the RIC and DMP to the Irish Times in 2013 found on Internet: http://www.inc-cne.com/RIC-DMP.pdf

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