AFTER decades of being airbrushed out of Irish history, a service to commemorate the hundreds of police officers killed around the time of the Irish War of Independence will take place in Dublin this weekend.
The unofficial, low-key event at Glasnevin Cemetery will pay tribute to the 500 Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) members killed by the IRA.
Retired Garda officer Pat McCarthy, one of the organisers, says the time has come for a permanent memorial to the slain officers of the RIC and Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP).
“We have a Garden of Remembrance in Dublin Castle for the 87 members of An Garda Siochána who have lost their lives since the foundation of this state, many of whom died violently at the hands of terrorists.
“There is also a Garden of Remembrance in Belfast for 304 members of the RUC and the PSNI.
“There are monuments erected in this country for all our Irish soldiers who died during the two Great Wars so the question I pose is: Why don’t we have a memorial for the RIC and the DMP?”
A series of official Irish government-sponsored events will take place over the next few years as other significant anniversaries arise — but there are no plans to recognise the 90th anniversary of the disbandment of the RIC in 1922.
The RUC George Cross Foundation along with a number of retired Garda had previously proposed a formal commemoration by way of an ecumenical service at Glasnevin.
However, the proposal caused controversy in some quarters given that the RIC auxiliaries — nicknamed the Black and Tans due to their mix of khaki and police uniforms — would be included in the act of remembrance.
Among other proposals is one to erect marble headstones bearing the names of all the RIC members: officers who have been otherwise written out of the official history of the state.
Cornelius Crean, brother of the Antarctic explorer Tom Crean, would be one of those commemorated. Sergeant Crean was shot dead during an ambush in Co Cork in April 1920.
Most of those killed were Catholics, with many off-duty officers shot dead in front of their families as they left Sunday mass.
Mr McCarthy said he believes a new memorial could be financed by the Garda Siochána Retired Members Association at no cost to the public purse.
“August 2012 is the ninetieth anniversary of their disbanding. We decided that because this is such an important event, we will commemorate it with a low-key ceremony in Glasnevin Cemetery.
“Several retired police officers from Northern Ireland will be attending. This is a religious ceremony. All we will be doing is saying a few prayers from the Bible.
“Jim McDonald (RUC GC chairman) will come and lay a wreath and say what he wants to say, and we will say what we want to say.”
Mr McDonald confirmed he would be attending and said he “was proud to do so”.
“In 1920 there were questions asked in the House of Commons about a memorial to the RIC who their lives in the War of Independence so-called. and they were promised that something would be done, but nothing has ever been done. It’s a crying shame. After all, the majority were fellow Irishmen who were murdered for doing their duty to the Crown as they saw it,” he said.
A spokesman for Glasnevin Cemetery told the News Letter that “no permission had been granted” for the commemoration.