Letters to the Editor: 'RIC members were obliged to uphold a violent system'

At least one of my relations was a member of the RIC. He left before the War of Independence in order to get married and not for any political reasons.

The RIC provided the necessary normal everyday policing outside Dublin and many joined for that rare prize in Ireland at the time, which was permanent pensionable employment.

However, its operation was also affected by the nature of British rule in Ireland.

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Arthur Wellesley, later duke of Wellington and prime minister, wrote in 1805 that “this country can only be held for the king by force of arms”.

Violence was always the final resort of the British government in Ireland, such as the threat of mass slaughter at Clontarf of supporters of O’Connell’s peaceful Repeal movement.

In this environment, the policing force also became a spy network to monitor and suppress the legitimate aspiration of the Irish people for independence.

As the only armed police force in the United Kingdom, it was also involved in the enforcement of unjust laws such as the Glenveagh estate clearance that took place here in Donegal.

This was not policing by consent of the people, as with the Garda Síochána, but violent enforcement of imperial rule.

While we must always recognise the ordinary humanity of the vast majority of members of the RIC, this entitles them to a special memorial no more than the humanity of, say, shop assistants or carpenters; and we must at the same time remember the undemocratic and violent system RIC members were obliged to uphold.

Liam Mulligan

Letterkenny, Co Donegal


Invite Prince Harry to future ceremony to complete ‘farce’

The Government’s stated intention is to postpone the honouring of the RIC until a later date.

For the Irish Constabulary the defeat of the Fenian Brotherhood Uprising brought unparallelled fame. “There was no doubt of their coolness, courage and detecting acumen”.

In Adam’s ‘Police Encyclopedia’ the author had this to say: “On Friday, September 6th, 1867 at the Constabulary Depot in the Phoenix Park, in the presence of the Lord Lieutenant, the Marchioness (afterwards the Duchess) of Abercorn attached with her own hands the medals, which were specially struck for the occasion, upon the breasts of those who had specially distinguished themselves. In addition to the medal some were also given a sum of money, or a chevron.”

As a result of the rising, nine policemen were decorated and everybody who was not Irish at the time got a chance to shake their hand and eulogise their loyalty, courage and determination.

Her majesty Queen Victoria was “graciously pleased to command the force and be hereafter called the Royal Irish Constabulary and they shall be entitled to have the harp and the crown as badges of the force”.

Being slightly facetious, with some members of the British royal family saying that they will earn their living for the future, I am sure that our Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan could complete the “farce” by inviting Prince Harry to officiate at his proposed future ceremony.

I would not dare suggest the appropriate stipend for his attendance.

But his attendance would give the Justice Minister’s “commemoration” world wide news headlines and, as usual when caught spending money foolishly, the Government can trot out the usual mantra that it is good for tourism.

Hugh Duffy

Cleggan, Co Galway


Election fever behind all this outrage over planned event

Like many other Irish families mine has a connection with the RIC. My grand uncle William O’Connor was an RIC constable. He rescued a drowning man from the River Lee in June 1918 and posthumously received a bravery award as he died of Spanish flu shortly after the event.

For some years now an annual interdenominational service for RIC and DMP members has been taking place at the Church of St Paul in Mount Argus. This is organised by the Historical and Reconciliation Police (Harp) Society.

In September 2019, Charlie Flanagan became the first Justice Minister to attend the event at Mount Argus. An Taoiseach was represented by his Aide de Camp Commandant Caroline Burke.

The event was reported in the media and passed off in a peaceful and respectful manner.

The more recently planned event at Dublin Castle has been disrupted due to the high level of excitement in the current build up to a general election. I wonder if the timing of this new event was judicious on the part of the minister?

Una O’Connor

Prosperous, Co Kildare

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