Atrocities inevitable from all sides in a civil war

Atrocities inevitable from all sides in a civil war
Crowds of onlookers throng St Patrick St the day after the burning of Cork city centre by British forces in December 1920.

I am saddened by the wave of anti-RIC/DMP rhetoric that has dominated the airwaves and print media in recent weeks causing a well-meaning Government to panic and do a U-turn on the planned ceremony in Dublin Castle.

Over halfway through the (so-called) “Decade of Commemoration” I was pleased to see that all participants in the historic events of a century ago were being commemorated by the Irish State — including indeed the 116 British soldiers killed suppressing the Easter Rising in Dublin.

But the RIC and DMP men killed in the same period are still to be banished from the historical narrative. One wonders how are we going to commemorate the 80 (or so) summary executions carried out by the Free State government in 1922/23.

We have heard and read much recently days about the undoubted crimes of many in the RIC, from the burning of Cork and the murder of Tomás Mac Curtain to the Rineen ambush, etc, but strangely nothing of the 525 policemen who were slaughtered in the period 1919 to 1922, many in the most appalling circumstances.

The IRA men who confronted lorry-loads of Tans or Auxiliaries were certainly courageous — they were confronting First World War veterans who knew how to fight back, but let’s be honest, many of the IRA killings were grubby little murders of unarmed policemen shot down while attending or leaving church, visiting pubs and shops or out strolling with their wives, girlfriends or children.

In one horrific case two RIC sergeants were shot dead lying in their beds in a hospital in Galway in March 1922 — note — after the Treaty. No doubt those who carried out those killings were later rewarded with IRA medals and pensions from a grateful Irish State.

In wars and especially civil wars, whether we like it or not, it is a sad but true fact that neither side has a monopoly of virtue, and atrocities are practically inevitable.

But the point I am making is that while we recently heard plenty about atrocities of the former, we heard nothing of the latter.

As George Orwell said: “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

-Gerard Lovett

Templeogue

Dubin

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