Statues around the US and UK are being torn down, but shouldn't we consider the true history and balance behind each of the figures and what would stand in their place?
In the drive up to Stormont Castle in Belfast, the seat of the Northern Irish government, there is an un-missable gigantic statue of Edward Carson, founder of modern Ulster unionism, in a triumphant pose, hand in the air proclaiming victory.
Stormont, built on a hill, overlooks working-class nationalist areas, so Carson is an extra indication that croppies must realize who is in charge. Carson’s larger than life image serves to hammer home that message.
In 50 years of unionist government, one token Catholic who somehow called himself a unionist was given a minor cabinet position. A “Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people” was the unmistakable message, and Carson’s role in setting up such a state was duly acknowledged.
To the victors go the spoils.
But it didn’t last. Croppies rose up instead, and now nationalists share power in equal numbers at Stormont.
Should Carson’s statue be removed? No. But there should be a similar statue of SDLP leader John Hume who led the movement of nationalists to democracy just as prominently.
As the current debate in America proves, iconography, especially statues, are deeply and symbolically important. Many of them were built, like in Northern Ireland, to taunt and affront the downtrodden and defeated.
In Dublin from 1808 on Nelson’s Pillar, 184 feet tall, loomed over Sackville Street, later O'Connell Street, commemorating a man, Horatio Nelson, who was being glorified for defeating the French Navy, Ireland’s gallant allies in the 1798 uprising.
There were numerous attempts to rid Dublin of the hated admiral, but it was not until 1966 that an IRA explosives expert decided enough was enough.
"He was the wrong man, in the wrong place at the wrong time," says one of the bombers, Liam Sutcliffe, the man who made the biggest alteration ever to Dublin's skyline. The bombers called the mission Operation Humpty Dumpty.
Nelson’s head disappeared after the explosion, and now it is an exhibit in the Dublin City Library.
Alas, Dublin eventually replaced Nelson with the Spire, an insipid, huge, radio antenna-like construct that even Sutcliffe admitted was worse than the old pillar.
There is certainly one other statue that deserves taking down, that of Confederate sympathizer and slaver John Mitchel, once an Irish freedom fighter whose statue still stands in Newry, County Down. It should be taken down and replaced by a memorial of Frederick Douglass, the freed American slave who wrote so movingly about the Famine impact on Ireland after he visited there.
Not all statues cause offense obviously, and you have to wonder about the idiots who tore down General Ulysses Grant’s statue in San Francisco last Friday. Without Grant’s Civil War generalship we could well be talking about a successful secession by the Southern states today, and possibly military dictatorships in both parts of America.
The bottom line should be that anyone who fought against Lincoln was fighting for slavery and disunion. They were traitors, not heroes, to the United States and do not deserve to be remembered in the same way that Germans do not build statues to Hitler.
It is high time to remember the oppressed, not the oppressors.