Eoghan Harris on RIC controversy: 'Time will show Charlie Flanagan did the right thing – twice'

Charlie Flanagan was right in trying to commemorate the RIC and DMP men who died doing their duty as they saw it – and right in calling it off to spare some of us sinking any lower, possibly by even picketing the ceremony itself.

The site is in close proximity to the Garda Memorial Garden where there’s already a DMP plaque – do the critics not know that the legendary Colonel Ned Broy was also a DMP detective?

Flanagan was acting in the finest traditions of Fine Gael, as were Ministers Josepha Madigan and Heather Humphreys who defended the commemoration.

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I would have said the same about Leo Varadkar but he was hoist by his own petard – three years of Brit-bashing against Brexit has fuelled tribal fanatics who foul social media with their sectarian sewage.

This feeds into the Sinn Fein strategy of subverting the moral boundaries of southern parties by sucking them into its toxic brand of nationalism.

“Probe with bayonets,” said Lenin. “If you meet mush, push on. If you meet steel, pull back.”

Last week, Sinn Fein probed the two main parties for signs of moral fibre and found moral mush, first in Fianna Fail, then in Fine Gael.

Critics sought to cover their moral cowardice by complaining about ‘mishandling’ and lack of ‘consultation’.

They were helped by Professor Diarmaid Ferriter’s view that the Government was using the expert advisory group as a “mudguard”.

Conversely, it could be claimed that politicians lacking the guts to act with good authority were using Ferriter as a mudguard for their mendacity.

Ferriter himself should have called out the troll historians who conflated the RIC with the Black and Tans and who claimed the campaign of murders begun by Dan Breen had electoral and public support at the time.

But the 1918 election gave the IRA no mandate to murder RIC men in cold blood – that had to be done retrospectively by Dail Eireann to back up Breen.

As for public support, PS O’Hegarty, writing about the killing of policemen in his almost contemporary account, The Victory of Sinn Fein (1924), is clear that “the public conscience was never easy about it”.

No wonder. Most RIC men were from humble homes and the Catholic cottier class. Most joined because – unlike some of their current well-got critics – they desperately needed money to feed their families. Many were married and in middle age, the softest of targets.

Dan Breen, who was clearly a psychopath, fell on these sheep like wolves – and better men followed his brutal bad example.

The casualty figures show clearly the IRA campaign was aimed at these hapless RIC Irish victims rather than the natural-born killers of the Black and Tans.

The IRA killed only 191 Black and Tans but they killed 322 RIC men.

Fergal Keane wrote movingly in The Irish Times about these RIC victims. But I cannot agree with his conclusion that we should not seek to “denigrate opponents of the postponed commemoration service as atavists or tribal nationalists”.

So what are we to call them?

To stay silent about their gutless behaviour is to become complicit in their moral cowardice.

The Lord Mayor of Cork is the only one with a credible case because of the cruel murder of Tomas Mac Curtain.

But he still might have done better to read and reflect on the city’s two great writers before he made his decision.

Frank O’Connor, in Guests of the Nation, taught my generation that nothing human was alien to us, including working-class British soldiers.

Sean O Faolain, the son of a gentle RIC father, wrote: “Men like my father were dragged out in those years and shot down as traitors to their country. Shot for cruel necessity – so be it. Shot to inspire terror – so be it. But they were not traitors. They had their loyalties and they stuck to them.”

Predictably, RTE failed its duty of care to a rising generation brainwashed by SF trolls peddling fake history on social media.

Far from Claire Byrne Live refuting the big lie – that the RIC ceremony was also commemorating the Black and Tans – every young person who saw the show told me they got the impression the Black and Tans were being commemorated.

Jim O’Callaghan’s dismissive stance on the RIC shocked me, and his cursory nod to Northern unionists did not deflect the Belfast Newsletter from voicing particular disappointment with Micheal Martin whom it often praises as a pluralist.

What has happened to our hearts and heads that we can so callously dismiss the relatives of RIC men? Alas, I know the answer.

My grandfather, Pat Harris, was the noblest of men. But like the rest of the Cork IRA, he was in the iron grip of an ideology – Irish nationalism.

Like any ideology – fascism, communism or Islamism – Irish nationalism can convince its followers to condone things that are contrary to their better natures, both today and 100 years ago.

Ideology dictated that Pat Harris did not break ranks in November 17, 1920, when Sgt James O’Donoghue, RIC, who lived around the corner in Tower Street, who never carried a gun and was generally seen as a decent local bobby, was shot dead by young tearaways, a bag of bullseye sweets for his young daughter falling from his dying hand.

Worse was to come. Intimidated by the IRA, local undertakers refused to bury his body. Sgt O’Donoghue’s weeping widow and her children had to hire a private car to take his body back to Cahirciveen.

Pat Harris would have been privately sickened, but he did not protest, silenced by his belief in the ideology of Irish nationalism.

The same ideology is currently sanitising the Provo IRA murder campaign. Judging by social media, the rising generation is the most rabidly tribal I can recall.

This sick regression, which is degrading Irish democracy, is the result of three factors: the steady greening of academe purged of sceptical revisionists, a sectarian campaign on social media by SF trolls, and three years of bashing Brits and unionists over Brexit.

For the first time in my life, I fear for the future of our Republic as it retreats into the nationalism that brought misery to the Balkans. But all is not lost.

Two summers ago I was greeted at a filling station in Skibbereen by Joe Riordan, a regular reader, who was on his way to Durrus to put flowers on the lonely grave of Constable Isaac Rea of the RIC, who was only 20 years of age when he was shot by the IRA in Cappoquin, Co Waterford, while on foot patrol.

The IRA volunteer who shot young Rea was Joe’s grandfather, John Riordan, training officer of the West Waterford Brigade.

Joe’s respectful pilgrimage to the grave of a young Protestant Irishman killed by his grandfather is a role model we should follow – for the sake of our children.

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