Mayor Valérie Plante had come under fire for refusing to engage in discussions about the Griffintown Light Rail stop

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante has met with members of the local Irish community to discuss a number of issues, including the proposed memorial for Black Rock, as well as the naming of a new light-rail station in the historically Irish Griffintown.

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Mayor Plante invited about a dozen representatives of the Irish community in Montreal for the private meeting which was hosted last week. Among the Irish representatives was Fergus Keyes, who sits on the board of the Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation, which is working to build a new memorial at Black Rock, the oldest Irish Famine memorial outside of Ireland.

The Montreal Gazette reports that the Foundation’s plans for a new memorial at Black Rock include “a pool to evoke the immigrants’ ocean crossing, a paved walkway, an agora, panels explaining the significance of the site and a vegetable garden to evoke the failed potato crop that caused the famine.”

However, at present, Black Rock sits on a median in Montreal’s busy Bridge Street. A new park would require the rerouting of Bridge Street, something that Mayor Plante is reportedly open to.

The Foundation has also been vocal about the naming of a new light-rail station in Griffintown, which has historic Irish roots. Mayor Plante proposed naming it after former Quebec Premier Bernard Landry, something which the Irish community is staunchly against.

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On January 15, Keyes shared on Facebook that the meeting with Mayor Plante was both “productive” and “interesting.”

Regarding the diversion of Bridge Street, Keyes wrote: “the City generally made a very clear commitment to relocate Bridge Street and seemed to fully understand our concern over this matter. 

“As they say the 'devil is in the details' – planning, costs, negotiations with Hydro Quebec that owns the land etc., etc. But the commitment to do everything possible to move Bridge Street was definitely and clearly stated by the Mayor and other City Councillor representatives at this meeting. I guess the statement that 'We will move Bridge Street' is a clear as it can get!

“This commitment regarding Bridge Street is very, very excellent news for the community; and everyone that has been involved in this effort for the past 10-12 years and will allow planning for the actual memorial space to move forward.”

However, Keyes wrote that the discussion surrounding the naming of the light-rail station in Griffintown was “a little more contentious.” In November, Mayor Plante said that the station should be named after former Premier of Quebec Bernard Landry, but the local Irish community opposes this choice, saying that Landry had no real connection to Griffintown, historically an Irish neighborhood, and also held anti-immigrant sentiments during his time.

Keyes wrote: “The Mayor reinstated her belief that the Griffintown Station include the name of Mr. Landry. However, the members of the Irish Community in attendance, also made it very clear that having Mr. Landry’s name on the Griffintown station was completely unacceptable - and that thousands and thousands of Montrealers, many of non-Irish descent, were also very opposed to this idea. 

“At the end, no real decision was made – the Mayor again mentioned that REM would be responsible for naming the station; however, she would spend some time to rethink her position over the next few weeks. We will await her final decision on this matter but regardless we think that we made it very loud and clear that the Irish community, and other interested parties, will always be opposed to having Griffintown rebranded with Mr. Landry’s name.”

Keyes concluded his post by noting that “time, as usual, will tell.”

After the private meeting, Plante told reporters: “Our goal as the city is to make sure that the Black Rock is in a place that will be easily accessible, because right now it is absolutely not accessible.” She neither confirmed nor denied her commitment to rerouting Bridge Street.

Read More: Montreal Mayor refuses to consider honoring Irish Famine dead with REM station