The decision of Charlie Flanagan to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary and by extension, the Black and Tans is an outrage. But behind it lies Fine Gael’s ambition to draw this country ever closer into a web of imperialist relations.

The RIC was one of the first police forces ever formed in the world. Their purpose was to keep Ireland safe for the British empire. They were recruited from rural areas and were chosen because they were amongst the biggest and largest men. In 1913, the Dublin Metropolitan Police – the RIC’s counterpart in the city – baton-charged striking workers so ferociously that they murdered two people.

After 1919 a popular struggle – involving thousands of people who took up arms – drove out the RIC and formed liberated zones in parts of the country. Police stations were burnt to the ground and a mass boycott meant that people refused to supply them. The IRA embarked on a campaign of shootings to force them out, killing many RIC officers. By 1920, the RIC had retreated from 500 barracks.

In response to this, Winston Churchill sent in the ‘Black and Tans’ to bolster the RIC. These became part of the official RIC and their name comes from the fact that they combined the Khaki of the British army with the Black of the RIC uniform. Their main tactic was to launch reprisal and murder squads  against the population. The activities of the RIC and the Black and Tans are well known in Ireland. They burnt towns like Balbriggan and Cork and murdered innocent people.

Instead of commemorating this brutal, repressive force, we should be celebrating an Irish revolution that drove them out.

But that is not in Fine Gael’s nature. The party has always wanted to bring Ireland back into the Commonwealth and turn us into a  minor player in the Anglo-American imperial enterprise.

We should totally reject Flanagan’s stupid idea. But while doing so, let’s link our anger to the contemporary world and demand that the US army also get out of Shannon. If it was right to throw out the Black and Tans, then it is equally right to throw the US and British armies out of Iraq.

Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin is the People Before Profit candidate for the Dundrum ward in Dublin Rathdown. He is a musician, a Psychology graduate and a native Irish speaker. Eoghan is part of a newly politicising generation of young activists who are no longer willing to accept a political system that allows thousands of people to remain homeless, that leaves tens of thousands of people on hospital waiting lists, that leaves asylum seekers languishing in the glorified prisons that are the Direct Provision system, and that is doing nothing to stop an existential threat to the human species due to climate change. The water charges and repeal movements have shown over the last few years that people power can win positive changes, and Eoghan believes we can draw inspiration from these victories in other struggles. As a Psychology graduate, Eoghan has a major interest in mental health, and is particularly concerned with a system that is a breeding ground for mental distress. With people now being forced to work longer hours, experiencing mortgage distress, paying exorbitant rents, childcare and other costs, and with almost 800,000 people living in poverty, it is little wonder that we are experiencing a mental health crisis. While the increased awareness of mental health issues in recent years is welcome, it has not come with any significant action on the part of the government to improve the situation. Eoghan believes the fight for improved mental health is two-faceted: We need to fight for better services, but we must also fight for a better society that provides people with their needs and allows them to flourish, explore their own creativity, and enjoy their lives. Eoghan has been heavily involved in campaigns for housing, repeal of the 8th amendment, ending direct provision and many other issues over the last few years. He believes that real change can only come through grass roots campaigns from below and if elected, he will use his position as a platform for progressive ideas and to further build these campaigns.

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