‘That memorable day when the Irish rugby team beat the hell out of the Black and Tans’: Twitter erupts with memes after Joe Biden confused All Blacks with British paramilitary force as he praised cousin Rob Kearney
Twitter has erupted with memes after Joe Biden appeared to mistake New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team with the British paramilitary force ‘the Black and Tans’ during a speech at an Irish pub.
The US president was paying tribute to distant relative and Irish rugby star Rob Kearney, before referencing a match between Ireland and New Zealand played at Soldier Field in Chicago in 2016.
He was speaking about his heritage and notions of Irishness to a packed Windsor Bar and Restaurant in Dundalk, County Louth, before describing how the shamrock tie he was wearing was given to him by Kearney.
But Biden said: ‘This was given to me by one of these guys, right here, was a hell of a rugby player. He beat the hell out of the Black and Tans.’
Social media users have quickly created a flurry of hilarious memes highlighting the president’s error.
US President Joe Biden pictured during his speech to the packed pub in Dundalk, Ireland, yesterday
Who were the Black and Tans?
The Black and Tans were a 10,000-strong group of British recruits to the Royal Irish Constabulary.
Recruitment began in January 1920: many of those who signed up were unemployed veterans of the First World War, or convicts.
They were sent to Ireland to try and quash demands for independence from Britain. The War of Independence was fought from 1919-21.
Their nickname came from their uniform – they wore some of the dark green clothing of the Royal Irish Constabulary, which looked black, and some of the khaki of the British army.
They were known for their brutality and reprisals against civilians: to this day, they are seen as a cruel and shameful force.
Kearney, voted Europe’s best player in 2012, played a pivotal role in Ireland’s defeat of the All Blacks – the New Zealand national team – in November 2016, in Chicago.
It was the first time that Ireland had ever beaten the New Zealand side.
But Biden’s muddling of history also had a darker side.
The Black and Tans were a notorious group of constables enlisted to help the British cause during the Irish War of Independence – the 1919-21 battle between the Irish Republican Army and the British forces.
The July 1921 ceasefire saw the island divided, with Northern Ireland remaining under British control and the south gaining independence.
The Black and Tans – officially part of the Royal Irish Constabulary – were a group of 10,000 men recruited from Britain to try and defeat the IRA. Their name came from their uniforms: a mix of the dark green of the RIC, which looked black, and the tan color of the British army.
Such was the ferocity of their fighting that the rumor spread that they had been recruited from British prisons.
They were well known for their brutality and enacting reprisals on civilians they believed supported the IRA.
Public opinion in the UK and Ireland was widely disapproving of their acts.
The unit was disbanded in 1922, yet to this day the Black and Tans are a shorthand for excessive violence, and their role in the war remains contentious.
The troops were immortalized in the popular Irish rebel song, ‘Come Out, Ye Black And Tans’.
What is the Come Out Ye Black and Tans song? Pro-IRA tune was written in 1920s in support of the republican cause during Irish War of Independence
Come Out Ye Black and Tans is an Irish rebel song about the Black and Tans – officially known as the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve.
The Black and Tans were a British paramilitary police auxiliary force, formed in 1919 and made up of temporary constables, during the Irish War of Independence.
They were given the nickname due to their mix of khaki British Army and rifle green RIC uniforms.
Most of the recruits were former British World War One veterans, but were specifically seen as separate to the military as the British government did not want to give credibility to the cause of an ‘independence war’.
The Black and Tans were infamous for their ruthlessness and often clashed with civilians, as well as armed republican forces – including the IRA. The force were disbanded in 1922.
Dominic Behan wrote the song for his father Stephen. And although it specifically mentions the Black and Tans, the context of the song is a dispute between republican and loyalist groups in Dublin.
The song ties Irish nationalism to the struggles of other peoples against the British Empire across the world, mentioning wars in the Middle East and the Zulus.
In modern day, the term ‘Black and Tans’ is seen as a more general derogatory term for the British and British Army in Ireland.
The song is still sung by Irish rebel bands and folk singers and is sometimes heard at Ireland and Celtic FC football matches.
The chorus of the song goes:
Come out ye Black and Tans,
Come out and fight me like a man,
Show your wife how you won medals out in Flanders,
Tell her how the IRA made you run like hell away,
From the green and lovely lanes in Killeshandra