The people of Vancouver have been asked to choose the best design from a shortlist of monuments that will honor the Irish contribution to their city.
Voting on the shortlist of monuments will run until April 24 and participants are asked to choose between proposal A, “Discovering New Land” or Proposal B, “Seeing Through History.”
Proposal A calls for a concrete sculpture of Ireland and a path shaped like an outline of the island of Ireland. The shamrock representing Ireland and a maple leaf for Canada would be engraved somewhere as well.
Proposal B envisages that the park’s existing paths and trees would remain but a wall of granite would be added with the names of Ireland’s four provinces and 32 counties engraved into it. A harp and shamrock symbolizing the park’s Irish connections will also be engraved, as well as the quintessentially Canadian maple leaf.
The monument has been planned for twelve years but is only getting off the ground now.
Brendan Flynn, executive director of the Ireland Canada Monument Society, said he first got the idea for the project on a trip back home. He was randomly chatting about how “the Irish in Vancouver don’t have much to show for themselves” in terms of historical monuments.
“Why not go back and build something for them?” it was suggested to him.
Word got back to then-President of Ireland Mary McAleese who was keen on the idea; the seal of Presidential approval spurred Flynn on to get the project off the ground.
Originally, the foundation suggested Thornton Park but as the park already has a monument to female victims of violence, the city council instead suggested Wainborn Park.
No objections to either plan were raised at a public meeting held on April 4 and the project has also received the blessing of the leaders of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
A 2012 design, however, provoked an angry outburst from local women’s groups who said it was too phallic-looking.
“We feel that the women’s comments are excessive,” Flynn protested at the time. “The issues are before the city’s park board and the art committee. We want to leave matters with them for now … The last thing the Irish want to do is offend people.”
Nevertheless, the project stalled but five years on it looks like the contribution of Irish Canadians to Vancouver and British Columbia will be honored with a permanent memorial very soon.