RIC members ‘caught on the wrong side of history’ remembered in London

The change of guard is a ritual that is largely ignored by Londoners but loved by tourists.

As tourists pulled their necks through the railing to see the crossing at Wellington Barracks, and the grenadier guards’ gang knocked out its dream, another shift change was marked in the chapel next door.

Relatives of RIC members gathered for the event in London.  Photo: Ronan McGreevy

Relatives of RIC members gathered for the event in London. Photo: Ronan McGreevy

The centenary of the dissolution of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) in April 1922 and its replacement by the Civic Guard and later An Garda Síochána were marked with a memorial service in the Chapel of the Guards.

The RIC was the main police force for Ireland between 1816 and 1922. A total of 83,743 men served, but no memorial service will be held in Ireland to mark the dissolution of the police officer, for reasons that became clear when the then Attorney General Charlie Flanagan tried to host a memorial event at Dublin Castle in January 2020.

It was considered too great a security risk and too controversial to repeat such an event, so the Police Roll of Honor Trust in the UK stepped into the breach and offered to arrange a memorial service in London.

The trust remembers all police officers who died during their duty in the United Kingdom within its current and former territory. There are more than 5,000 names on his honor roll, and apart from the Metropolitan Police, the RIC has the most recorded deaths in service – 638 in total.

Of those, 549 were killed during the Revolutionary period between 1916 and 1922, many of them Black and Tans and Auxiliaries enlisted in Ireland during the War of Independence. Another 400 were killed in the service of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) during the troubles.

Police Trust Vice President John Giblin, whose father hails from Westport, Co Mayo, described himself as a proud “Welsh Irishman”. It was not just a voluntary decision to hold a memorial service for RIC, he explained, it was their duty, he said, as the trust has had a royal charter since 2018 to remember all officers who died in the UK and it included the whole of Ireland before 1922.

Sir. Giblin said the majority of RICs had been “Catholic boys” who joined at a time when there were few opportunities. It was a respected, steady job, and they were “caught on the wrong side of the story.” It was a common abstinence from those present – we should seek to understand, not condemn, the motives of the Irish who served 100 years ago in the salary of the Crown.

There were no Irish or British government representatives at the event. A State Department spokesman said the trust had brought it to the attention of the event, but no formal invitation had been sent to any government official or politician to attend.

That was the way trust would be, Mr Giblin explained: “By inviting politicians, you make it political.” The emphasis was on the family.

US Embassy event

The service in the Guards’ Chapel was preceded by an event on Thursday night at the Hollow American Embassy in London, to which relatives of those who had served in the RIC were invited. The trust has had a long relationship with the embassy.

At the embassy event, musician Dave Hardy played Danny Boy in honor of his great-great-grandfather, Harry Hardy, the founder of the RIC Police Band. For the memorial service, Mr. Hardy and another family member, Maria Byrne, read from Seamus Heaney’s The Cure of Troy and its famous lines, which begin: “People suffer / They torture each other / They get hurt and get tough.”

There were more than 300 people present in the chapel. Giblin said he was “happy” about the attendance and had received many apologies from those who could not attend.

The chapel was chosen as a safe place, although there was no security at the event. The service began with the introduction of the union standard and a new one dedicated to RIC.

Gerry Carter, a retired guard, wore into the chapel a RIC constable hat, symbolizing his grandfather Tommy Carter’s service in the force. He lamented the absence of any official Garda presence at the event.

“I am here to honor all those who served in the RIC and who gave their lives for the Irish people,” he said.

Retired guard Gerry Carter is wearing a RIC constable hat, symbolizing his grandfather Tommy Carter's service in the force.  Photo: Ronan McGreevy

Retired guard Gerry Carter is wearing a RIC constable hat, symbolizing his grandfather Tommy Carter’s service in the force. Photo: Ronan McGreevy

“I met several members of the force that I served with here. It was a wonderful service, but I would have liked to have seen it take place in Dublin.”

In his address to the congregation, Mrs Liam Bradley, a Catholic police chaplain in Wales, said many RIC men had died in “political unrest and division of society” – the only reference to the War of Independence.

Whatever the policy, each death left a grieving family, and “another branch of the family tree has been removed”. He pointed out that the last RIC officer to die, Sgt William Leech, was killed in May 100 years ago.

Maurice O’Reilly, whose great-grandfather Robert Gardiner served in the RIC, said his and the other relatives’ presence was for family reasons and not political.

“We do not choose our ancestors, but we must understand them. If we understand them, we can understand ourselves. There is a lot of ambiguity in Irish families. Things are not straightforward. “

Mary O’Neill brought a photograph of her grandfather Sgt James Collery, a father of nine, who was killed in an IRA ambush on June 1, 1921 in Ballymacandy, Co Kerry.

Mary O'Neill, whose grandfather Sgt James Collery, a father of nine, was killed in an IRA ambush on June 1, 1921 in Ballymacandy, Co Kerry.  Photo: Ronan McGreevy

Mary O’Neill, whose grandfather Sgt James Collery, a father of nine, was killed in an IRA ambush on June 1, 1921 in Ballymacandy, Co Kerry. Photo: Ronan McGreevy

Sgt Collery’s daughter Katherine, Mary’s mother, was only 11 at the time. “She was very bitter about it,” Mrs. O’Neill said. “She saw him being brought back to church after he was shot. Her family had to leave Limerick and go to Kerry. He did his job as a police officer. “

Kathi Moore’s great-uncle William Johnston was shot and killed in 1921 in Kilbritten, Co Cork.

Her grandfather John Edward Johnston and great-grandfather Edward Johnston also served in the force. The family left the South and settled in the Nordic countries. She represented her 91-year-old father, who was unable to attend.

“His father never really talked about it then. So for him it was quite a journey to find out more about his father. Two weeks ago he referred me to a closet in the house where all his father’s items were in his service. : manuals, badges, his handcuffs, you name it. ”

Bill Brick’s namesake and great-uncle Sgt William Brick was killed in an ambush near Timoleague in Co Cork on May 10, 1920.

“It is very personal for us. We are trying to omit the policy. I look at it from a family perspective. There were a lot of problems that resonated through the generations later, ”he said.

Sir. Brick said the original, canceled RIC ceremony should have been viewed from a family and not a political perspective. “The level of cowardice from official Ireland was shocking,” he said.

Helen O’Connor, sister of broadcaster and Irish Times columnist Seán Moncrieff, said their grandfather Sgt John O’Reilly had served in the force. “We always knew our grandfather was in RIC. The family legend is that he had been shot on guard, which is not true. I wanted to come because there was so much tumult in Ireland about it. I heard someone say, that they would not be told by Shinners what to do, and I said, ‘Yes, that is it.’

Helen O'Connor and Maeve D'Arcy.  Both had grandfathers who served in the force.  Photo: Ronan McGreevy

Helen O’Connor and Maeve D’Arcy. Both had grandfathers who served in the force. Photo: Ronan McGreevy

Her friend Maeve D’Arcy, whose grandfather Thomas O’Connor served in the RIC, said she was also glad she left. “All the people born in the late 19th and 20th centuries, most of them went through several wars, they served in different ways, maybe they worked for powers they agreed with, maybe they worked for powers that they did not agree. ”

Targeted

Niall Quigley said his family was hit 100 years ago as a result of his grandfather Thomas Quigley being in RIC. “They were stoned and not served in local shops. The girls in his family were sent to an aunt in Hull and never returned.”

Sir. Quigley said he had not given up hope that a memorial service could be held in Ireland. “They should remember them on their own home turf, not in a foreign country.” Those who protested against such a memorial service “lived in the past and did not mature”.

After the service, all those present gathered on the stairs outside the Guard Chapel for a group photo.

Dr. Méadhbna Ní Bhaoill (Madge Boyle), who read a beannacht (blessing) in Irish during the service, remembered her great-niece constable Charles McGee, who was the first RIC officer killed in the Easter uprising. As a native of the Donegal Gaeltacht, he was shot and killed in Castlebellingham, Co Louth, on Easter Day 1916.

“If we want peace and unity on the island of Ireland, we need to recognize that there are people with different backgrounds who need to work together,” said Drs. Boyle.

“I do not think there is any point in signing the Good Friday agreement unless people want to be honest and accept the views of others.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.