Kevin Myers: There is no political constituency that gets angry at the neglect of these poor murdered policemen
Published 31/08/2012 | 17:00
THE 'Irish Times' observed that it was "significant" that no Government figure attended last weekend's memorial service at Glasnevin Cemetery for the 563 policemen of the RIC and the DMP killed between 1916 and 1922. "These men served the British crown and sought to prevent the emergence of an independent state ... the atrocities committed by some RIC members and particularly by their supporting auxiliaries, the Black and Tans, still resonate." The editorial continued: "Many members of the RIC and the DMP... as Catholics, were excluded from the top ranks of the RIC."
So, there you have it: the standard, fact-free, Fenian fairy-tale, from the paper of record, once the voice of Irish unionism, but now sounding like The New Irish Press. So, let's begin with that final falsehood, about the ban on Catholics.
The last inspector-general of the RIC, 1916-1920, was in fact Brigadier General Sir John Aloysius Byrne, a Catholic from Derry. And it is surely one of the grisliest triumphs of the unionist-republican conspiracy against Irish democracy that within a couple of years it would be quite inconceivable for a Derry Catholic to be either a British army general or the head of the Irish police, never mind, God help us both.
Long before Byrne's appointment, the RIC had effectively abandoned serious weapons training. From 1908, all officers above the level of clerk, including head constable, never even bore firearms and such officers were only re-armed after the brutal murder of Inspector John Mills in Dublin in 1917, of which, naturally, you've never heard.
Moreover, the RIC/DMP never "sought to prevent the emergence of an independent state". Some sort of independence was legally inevitable after the Third Home Rule Bill became law in September 1914. Moreover, Sinn Fein candidates did not fight the election in 1918 on the promise of a war against the police: and even with mass personation and intimidation, they still only got just 48pc of the votes cast. If the election is to be judged as a constitutional referendum, the proposition was rejected.
Things you didn't know. Consider Co Sligo. Michael Farry's splendid 'The Aftermath of Revolution' reveals that 19 people died in the Troubles. Seventeen of the victims were Crown forces, including 14 RIC men. One person was murdered by the IRA "as a spy". "No civilian was killed by the British forces as a reprisal or otherwise," he reports.
In August 1916, Sergeant Patrick Fallon, newly appointed to Ballymote, was met by a deputation from nearby Gurteen, which he had just left, who presented him with a bag of golden sovereigns in grateful recognition of his services there. Four years later, this popular village policeman was shot dead at point-blank range on fair day.
Like poor Fallon, RIC Constables Perry, Keown, Laffey and Lynch were all Irish Catholics called Patrick. The four were on a hapless bicycle patrol near Moneygold in October 1920 when, as they wobbled round a bend, they were ambushed by over 30 well-armed IRA men and comprehensively butchered. Seventeen Irish children were thus left fatherless.
The IRA leader in this splendid affair, William Pilkington, later became a priest with the Redemptorists, who were infamous for their obsessions about sexual purity. His sodality-fulminations on the evils of masturbation must have been quite riveting: on murder, perhaps less so.
Did the RIC perpetrate any atrocities? Yes. Did the Auxiliaries, (whom the 'Irish Times' editorial apparently confuses with the Black and Tans) murder people? Unquestionably. Yet the deeds of neither compare with the execution by Free State firing squads of 77 anti-treaty captives in 1922-23, or the IRA's murder of 74 Cork Protestants, or its destruction of the Customs House and the Four Courts, complete with the nation's historical archives. However, these shocking events apparently don't "resonate" within the querulous fables of Irish nationalism.
Moreover, our Government regularly meets the leaders of an organisation that slaughtered 10 innocent Protestants at White Cross, burned 12 Protestants alive at La Mon, blew up a boatload of octogenarians and children at Mullaghmore and bagged another dozen Prods at Enniskillen. Their reward? A guaranteed place in government in Stormont.
So much for "resonate".
Stephen Collins of the 'Irish Times' dissented from his newspaper's stance: "It is bizarre that the Government sees no difficulty commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Ulster Volunteer Force, formed with the express purpose of opposing Irish democracy with force, yet it has no plans to honour the ordinary policemen who served the community before 1922."
Quite so. And the Government's absence from Glasnevin certainly was -- as the 'Irish Times' said -- "significant". It signified yet another triumph for the besetting national vice -- of settling for a lazy, timorous consensus.
Simply put, there is no political constituency that gets angry at the neglect of these poor murdered policemen, no blood-soaked gunman hammering at the door, indignantly demanding parity of esteem. Excellent! So wind up grandpa's 78rpm gramophone for another scratchy rendition of 'Wrap the Green Flag Round Me, Boys'.
But look: I repeatedly heard that old dirge from 1979 on, as I began writing about the forgotten Irish soldiers of the Great War. So, please, take it from me: the dead of the RIC/DMP? They haven't gone away, you know.