Monuments in Galway city and Tuam, which honour people who were directly involved in the slave trade or who fought to maintain slavery, should be removed.
This is the view of People Before Profit Galway spokesperson Kiran Emrich, who is calling on the Galway public, as well and the city and county councils, to act in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and remove the monument to Christopher Columbus in Galway and the plaque in Tuam to the Confederate army major, Richard ‘Dick’ Dowling.
'Galway was involved in supplying provisions to slave traders in Africa and to slaveowners on the plantations in the colonies in the Americas'
Mr Emrich's calls follows the well attended #BlackLivesMatter protest in the city centre last weekend. He also cited how, in the US state of Virginia, authorities have agreed to remove a statue of the Confederate general Robert E Lee in the state capital Richmond.
Christopher Columbus visited Galway in 1477 before later sailing to America in 1492. The monument to Columbus was installed beside the Spanish Arch in 1992 to commemorate 500 years since his voyage. However, the monument gives "no history or context to his voyage or what he did in the Americas".
During Columbus’ time in Hispaniola, modern-day Haiti, thousands of native peoples were killed or enslaved. During Columbus’ time in the Americas, Columbus and his men killed natives for sport, exploited them for slave labour to produce cotton and gold and engaging in torture and murder of anyone who failed to produce enough. Columbus was also the first to transport slaves across the Atlantic, sending around 5,000 to Spain.
'A street and a school named after Dowling in Houston, Texas, have both been renamed in recent years'
“Instead of commemorating Columbus, it would be more appropriate for a memorial acknowledging Galway’s role in the slave trade," said Mr Emrich. "Galway, along with other Irish port towns, were involved in supplying provisions to slave traders in Africa and to slaveowners on the plantations in the colonies in the Americas. This was essential to maintaining the Atlantic slave trade which transported millions of African people as slaves."
PBP Galway is also calling for the removal of the plaque, on Tuam Town Hall, honouring Richard Dowling, the Tuam born Confederate, who led a group of other Irish-born Confederates in an against the odds victory over Union forces during the American civil war.
"The Confederate army fought to maintain slavery of black people in the Southern states," said Mr Emrich. "A street and a school named after Dowling in Houston, Texas, have both been renamed in recent years. A proposal in 2017 to have the plaque in Tuam removed was ignored by local councillors. People Before Profit Galway are now calling on local councillors to revisit this decision."