I am not a big fan of England’s Royal Family, for many reasons, and I am most unhappy she has gone to Ireland, symbolic of another hundred years of Irish oppression. I think Catholic journalist William Oddie’s piece in the Catholic Herald is, as the Brits say, “spot on.”
It is worthwhile, if we are to understand the background to this event, to look at the role, in the early 20s, in the British attempt to contain the IRA, of the Black and Tans – so-called because they were a scratch force, uniformed in leftover khaki uniform trousers and leftover British police jackets.
They soon gained a reputation for ruthlessness and violence as the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) campaign against the IRA and Sinn Féin gathered momentum. In December 1920, the British government actually sanctioned “official reprisals” in Ireland for attacks on the RIC and British army: it was not the SS who invented this means of warfare against a civilian population. Normally, reprisals meant burning the property of IRA members and of their sympathisers, not murder: but, of course, it inevitably led to personal violence: the Black and Tans were not subject to the same discipline as members of the RIC and their deaths at the hands of the IRA provoked often bloody retaliation against civilians.
They burned and pillaged towns and villages throughout Ireland, including Tuam in County Galway, and Trim, Balbriggan, Knockcroghery, Thurles and Templemore. They even, in effect, laid siege to Tralee, as a reprisal for the IRA’s murder of two RIC officers. All the businesses in the town were closed down and for a week no food was allowed in; three civilians from the town were shot dead. They killed a priest and threw his body in a bog. Most astonishing of all, they sacked and burned down the entire centre of the city of Cork, which the Queen, God bless her, will also be visiting. You can see footage of the Black and Tans in action (including the burnt out city centre of Cork) on Youtube.
The English contribution to Ireland: