A war of words involving artist and designer Jim Fitzpatrick, controversial political campaigner Declan Ganley, and the Mayor of Galway Hildegarde Naughton has broken out over the proposal to erect a monument to Che Guevara in Galway.
The idea for the monument comes from a proposal by Labour councillor Billy Cameron, an ardent admirer of the revolutionary. Guevara had strong links to Galway through his father Ernesto Guevara Lynch, whose forefathers came from Claregalway.
It is understood City Hall’s arts officer James Harrold will commission a scale model of the proposed monument to be made. This will then be presented to the Galway City Council’s working group on public arts for consideration, and later city manager Joe O’Neill for final approval.
The approval of city councillors may also be needed and it is understood informal discussions are taking place regarding creating support for the project and in agreeing a suitable site to locate it. The project is likely to be undertaken in conjunction with the Cuban and Argentinean embassies to Ireland.
The issue became controversial when Declan Ganley accused the Galway City Council of being about to erect a “monument to a mass murderer”.
Mr Ganley upped the ante this week by welcoming comments made by Mayor Naughton, opposing the erection of the monument.
“Galway should not risk it’s reputation, its image, its future, and its deep links with the United States by allowing this offensive monument to be built in our city,” he said. “It will drive away tourism, jeopardise investment, and leave us all the poorer. I welcome the fact that Mayor Naughton has come to see this for the risk that it is and I hope common sense will prevail over the extremist views of a small minority.”
Mr Ganley claimed that statements opposing the proposed statue were issued by US Congressmen Mario Diaz-Balart and David Rivera of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
“I also know from my own recent trips to the US that this statue is causing deep concern and hurt,” he said. “That may surprise some people, but the fact is that the horrors inflicted on people by Che Guevara have left deep scars, and many Americans simply cannot understand why the people of Galway would wish to insult and wound them like this.”
However Mr Ganley’s claims have been questioned by artist Jim Fitzpatrick, whose iconic 1968 poster of the Irish-Argentine revolutionary will form a major part of the proposed monument.
Writing to The Irish Times on Monday, Mr Fitzpatrick accused Mr Ganley of uttering “the usual erroneous anti-Cuban propaganda in his vitriolic denunciation of Che Guevara”.
He also rebutted many of Mr Ganley’s claims, quoting former CIA agent Philip Agee, who said: “There was no person more feared by the company [CIA] than Che Guevara because he had the capacity and charisma necessary to direct the struggle against the political repression of the traditional hierarchies in power in the countries of Latin America.”
Mr Fitzpatrick added that “as the artist whose work has inspired this proposed submission to Galway County Council, I am proud to be involved in any monument to such a man. My own hero Nelson Mandela referred to Che Guevara as ‘an inspiration for every human being who loves freedom’.”