Leo Varadkar is correct. We do need conversations about the statue of Seán Russell, the vandalism of the Booterstown plaque to Kevin O’Higgins, the vandals’ Glasnevin victory, the Nenagh and Drumcondra monuments to rapist Martin Hogan, the statues in Crossmaglen, Ballyseedy and East Mayo by Nazi collaborator Yann Goulet, the bridges over the river Liffey and very much more.
The cases for and against Russell have been repeatedly laid out for those who are interested. All I say is that it was not, as some “patriots” claim, Young Fine Gael who defaced it. It was vandals closer to home, the same vandals who erected murals, plaques and monuments to those fellow U Boat 65 commuter Frank Ryan enticed to Spain and who objected to Gabriel Lee’s name being on a Pro-Cathedral church pew.
Kevin O’Higgins was murdered on a Sunday morning by the chief organiser of those who went with Frank Ryan to do God Knows What in Spain. The same motley crew murdered the unarmed War of Independence veteran Det Sgt Dinny O’Brien outside his home and Charlie Kearns, one of the perpetrators, has GAA clubs and more named after him. O’Brien has no such honours.
Many of these vandals would have much respect for the late INLA founder Seamus Costello, who is buried in Bray graveyard, as are many former members of the Special Detective Unit. Should all sides take the DART to Bray, along with their sledge-hammers? Should we bust up the Boer War monuments in Anglican churches? Are GAA clubs fair game? I hope not.
Leaving aside that Yann Goulet was sentenced to death for leading the Patrick Pearse Strolladou Stourm ( Breton SS) Division, Crossmaglen PIRA whose monument dominates Cardinal O’Fiaich Square, did some abominable things. Though one would need either a strong stomach or a strong moral compass to salute those who abducted, murdered and buried in an unmarked grave Charlie Armstrong for the apparent capital crime of going to Sunday morning Mass, if Limerick is our metric, then Mass goers are now legitimate targets.
As regards the bridges over the River Liffey, the Cumann na nGaedheal government renamed a gaggle of them to reflect their brand of nationalism. Then Dev got in and renamed those which had been renamed. Have a look at the farce that is Queen St Bridge (the bridge leading onto Dublin’s Queen St). And that is just when we had Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael squabbling and not the whole hen house we currently have, each, like an incontinent dog trying to mark out its space.
Though we could write columns on this and on the vandalism of “West Brit” monuments and street names in South Dublin, we do need a conversation and some leadership for this to end and for us to grow up. There is a story to be told of the War of Independence and of thugs like Martin Hogan, the Oriel House Gang and the Black and Tans who played bit parts in it.
Though the main heroes, the men and women who elected Dev in the pivotal East Clare by-election, are not the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters, they and those who followed them are the ones who deserve the monuments, the plaques and especially our gratitude.
The proximate problem is where to physically place this ongoing discussion. My suggestion is in a number of locations, such as the Croppy’s Acre, Collins’ Barracks (formerly the Royal Barracks), Cathal Brugha (formerly Portobello) Barracks and such others, Glasnevin Cemetery included, that may come to mind.
Glasnevin is, of course, not only a place of contemplation but is now a tourist attraction in its own right. There is a huge, multi-sided story to be told, however imperfectly, about the 1913-23 period. But it must be told with pen, with keyboard and with sculptors’ hands, not with mallet and with axe.
But our pampered overlords disagree. Some small clique on Dun Laoghaire (formerly Kingstown)-Rathdown Council have decreed that Rathgar’s Orwell Road should be renamed to honour Ukraine’s corrupt President, who has no connection with Ireland, never mind Rathgar, whose most famous landmark is its Catholic Church, better known as The Servants’ Church from the days when only scullery maids attended services there.
Although these pro-British extremists now want to badger Orwell Road’s residents in acquiescing to their name-changing demands, the antics of these lunatics has not gone unchallenged and now other pressure groups want Pembroke Road changed to Free Palestine Road, Merion Road to Brits Out Road, Zion Road to Mossad Road and Herzog Park to Mossad Park.
If Kingstown’s leaders insist on renaming Orwell Road, then let it be called after former resident Andrija Artukovic, the convicted Croatian war criminal and Holocaust perpetrator, who lived there peaceably; Zelensky’s Azovs would appreciate the gesture.
A much better idea would be to abandon all such virtue signalling and to try to save what remains of the Irish economy. Because that would entail hard and thankless work and would not generate anywhere near the amount of column inches needlessly antagonising Russia does, don’t expect any initiatives on that front.So, yes, we do need conversations about the statue of Seán Russell, the vandalism of the Booterstown plaque to Kevin O’Higgins, the vandals Leo Varadkar and the Kingsotwn saety.’ Glasnevin victory and very much more. But are in much greater need of politicians, who can rise above the virtue-signalling venalities of Leo Varadkar’s Kingstown set.