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An illustration of the Ireland Canada Monument planned for Vancouver Photo by: Ireland Canada Monument

Canadian women’s group protests phallic shape of Irish immigrant monument in Vancouver

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An illustration of the Ireland Canada Monument planned for Vancouver Photo by: Ireland Canada Monument

The Remember Our Sisters (ROS), a women’s activist group, are objecting to the proposed monument set for a Vancouver park recognizing the contributions of Irish immigrants in building Canada.

Their release said “Given that monuments are permanent, this imbalance will perpetuate into the future the fallacy of Irish women’s unequal contribution to Canada.

They said the “central upright focal point ten feet high” is “such conventional phallic symbolism.” They state that vertical monuments elsewhere have been moved away for this reason.

They say the planned monument at Thornton Park in Vancouver under-represents women, has a phallic design, and has values that aren’t in harmony with Marker of Change, the park’s existing monument to the 14 women shot and killed at L’Ecole Polytechnique, in Montreal, in 1989.

Brendan Flynn, project coordinator for the Ireland Canada Monument, told the Vancouver Sun newspaper the monument was inspired initially by President Mary McAleese’s visit, in 2005.

Flynn said that after years of preparation the Irish Canadian committee planned on starting fundraising for the project. The monument will include a Celtic cross and list the names of the Irish the monument pays tribute to.

He said, “Our mandate is simple: to recognize Irish Canadians with no offence to anyone.

“We feel that the women’s comments are excessive. The issues are before the city’s park board and the art committee. We want to leave matters with them for now.

Read more stories on Irish history here

“This is very sad that this has happened. The last thing the Irish want to do is offend people.”

On December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action Against Violence Against Women in Canada, the ROS, released a statement to the press. They complain that the monument will only mention 17 of the 120 Irish women who have made major contributions to Canadian society.

The ROS group believed that the inclusion of the cross on the Irish monument “would thus introduce religious and patriarchal aspects to the memorial gestures”.

“Given that Thornton Park is such a small, flat park, we believe that it may only truly accommodate another public artwork whose values are in harmony with the existing memorial.”

The monuments is currently going through the usual public process and will be on the agenda at the upcoming Public Art Committee meeting in Vancouver. It has already gone through public consultation – from 56 responses received 53 of them were positive.

The monument will have a central column, three meters in height, along with shorter columns, about 1.2 meters. Each column will be decorated with Irish traditional art. The area will also include three benches with ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers.

A representative from ROS was unavailable to comment.

Read more: Ennis memorial planned for Irishmen who died in the Vietnam War

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