ANY commemoration of the Black and Tans should be now ‘off the table’ according to the Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, who said he had no hesitation in refusing the invite to the State commemoration for the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) in Dublin Castle.
Cllr Brendan Mulroy was among a number of public representatives who refused to attend the commemoration, describing any event honouring the Black and Tans as ‘an insult to the families who suffered at its hands’.
Cllr Mulroy was invited to attend the commemoration service on behalf of Mayo County Council which was to take place in Dublin Castle on January 17. However, the public backlash forced the Government to defer the commemorations service, which was to honour members of the RIC and DMP.
“Anyone who knows their history in West Mayo are well versed on what the Black and Tans did in this county. The people who suffered in the past are not here to stand up for themselves and I felt I had to stand up for them and not let our history take a kicking.
“The biggest problem I had [with the commemorations] was that the Blank and Tans were being honoured as part of it. Everything else [on who to commemorate] can be up for discussion but honouring the Black and Tans will never be tolerated. As far as I am concerned commemorating the Black and Tans is off the table,” he told The Mayo News.
At yesterday’s (Monday) monthly meeting of Mayo County Council, councillors backed Cllr Mulroy’s stance and a motion was passed calling on the government to cancel the event altogether. There was no objection to the motion and Erris-based Fine Gael councillor Gerry Coyle told Cllr Mulroy that he was glad he took the stance he did and if he did not he could have called on him to boycott the event.
The first boycott of the event was by Mayor of Clare County Council, Cllr Cathal Crowe who described the commemoration as ‘historical revisionism gone too far’ and he was later joined in the boycott by the Lord Mayor of Cork.
The RIC was founded in 1836 and from 1919 to 1921, its members were in the frontline against the IRA during the War of Independence. It was reinforced with recruits from Britain, who became known as the Black and Tans because of the colour of their uniforms and became notorious for their brutality.
Cllr Mulroy said he decision to commemorate the RIC angered so many people and the vast majority of the public supported his stance.
“I would say that 99 percent of the people I met supported the stance I took. In my 20 years in politics I have never seen people so angry about one issue and it rose so many people. Everywhere I went people commented about it and I was happy to take the stance I took and would do the same again if I was invited again,” he commented.
Meanwhile, the relative of the the last RIC sergeant in history to serve in Belmullet expressed disappointment at the Government’s decision to defer the commemoration. Michael Guilfoyle was born in Enniscrone and grew up in Ballina as the son of an RIC member. He joined the RIC in 1909 and served in Belmullet prior to the outbreak of the War of Independence.
His grandson, also Michael Guilfoyle told the Sunday Independent he was ‘extraordinarily disappointed’ that the Dublin Castle commemoration was not going ahead and he wanted to defend the vast majority of RIC officers whose reputations were badly damaged by ‘a bad element’ in the force.
He explained his grandfather emigrated to New York after the force was disbanded in 1922 and returned to Ireland ten years later when he chose to live in retirement in Warrenpoint, Co Down instead of the Free State because he must have felt it was ‘safer’. His brother was an RIC officer based in the North, who continued to serve as a policeman in the newly formed RUC while younger brother Martin joined the Garda Síochána and was stationed in Co Donegal.