The Department of Justice knew there were likely to be major “sensitivities” around their plan for a commemoration for the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) months before the event was made public.
As controversy grew last month, security fears emerged with the Office of Public Works (OPW) — which manages Dublin Castle where the event was due to take place — saying there would need to be “significant assistance” from the gardaí.
“The gardaí have been in touch alright and they are very concerned,” wrote an OPW official in an email to the department. “There have been serious protest/riot threats made.”
Documents released by the Department of Justice under FOI also show just how closely involved Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan was in helping organise the commemoration.
He even helped suggest music for the day, suggesting ‘Danny Boy’ and “some Thomas Moore pieces”, according to internal emails.
The event ended up being deferred early in January and caused a major headache for Fine Gael in the run-up to the general election.
Emails show that the department knew last September that there were likely to be “sensitivities” around such a commemoration.
Internal records detail how controversy started to build around January 2, when the department began receiving negative calls and complaints on Twitter.
An internal email said:
Not entirely surprising — it’s a very sensitive area.
Another message sent to them said: “It is … trending on Twitter and the comments are not exactly favourable! Just type in ‘Black and Tans’ in the search box and you’ll see what I mean.”
The department tried to gather information to counteract some of the “nonsense circulating” about the event.
Speaking points prepared for the minister tried to hammer home the point that the event was not a “celebration” but one of a large number of events due to take place this decade.
“This is not a commemoration of the ‘Black and Tans’ and the ‘Auxiliaries’ which briefly supplemented the RIC from 1920 to 1922,” it said.
The department also received support from people who agreed the event should go ahead, especially from the families of those who had served in the RIC or DMP.
Following one such email, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan received a message from his special adviser saying: “There you go! Great to see it’s not all one-way traffic … did you send her a nice message back?”
Staff involved in the event were also reassured that the “deferral” of the event was not their fault.
A senior official wrote to his colleagues: “I appreciate the frustration that you must be feeling given the effort that went into it.
“I want to emphasise that the deferral of the event is absolutely no reflection on the quality of work done by the team, and this is recognised by everyone in the management team and the Minister’s office.”
The records also show how the department received more than 200 representations from members of the public and more than 20 phone calls as well.