Glasgow City Council Irish famine memorial plans slated by leading historian Sir Tom Devine


Council is urged to engage more with public over memorial development

Scotland’s top historian has said that Glasgow City Council is guilty of “amateurism” over its plans for a memorial to victims of the Irish famine in the city.

Professor Tom Devine said that the council had to show more transparency and look at the examples of other famine memorials around the world.

Over a million people were forced to emigrate from Ireland due to the Great Famine of the 1840s. About 100,000 Irish came to Glasgow while tens of thousands also arrived in the city from Scotland’s Highlands and Islands due to the blight.

In 2012, Glasgow City Council announced plans to build a permanent memorial to all those who settled in the city after the famine.

As CommonSpace reported, concerns had already been raised by the Irish Heritage Foundation (IHF) about the progress of the plans (click here to read more).

Professor Devine was speaking at a public event to discuss the memorial, organised by IHF.

At the event, councillor Matt Kerr who is heading the group tasked with developing the plans confirmed that a pathway in Glasgow Green is being considered.

But according to Devine, the council’s handling of the issue has been slack and he insisted that the memorial cannot be interpreted as just being dedicated to the catholic Irish like an exisitng one in Carfin in Lanarkshire.

He was quoted in the Herald as saying: “This can’t be tribal. That’s the problem with Carfin. Protestant Irish died too, even if not as many. The approach has been amateurish by Glasgow City Council. Despite relentless questioning here tonight they have been unable to give one idea.

“Their record is not that good. Look at George Square. This all needs to be transparent. They have a website. Why is there nothing on the website?

“Someone mentioned New York. There are 142 memorials worldwide. Has the council looked at any of them?

“It needs to have more opinions, more meetings like this. This was an important event not just for the Irish in Scotland but for Scotland itself.”

Councillor Kerr acknowledged that the council “need to start moving on this.”

He said: “This would not have happened 30 years ago and I don’t want to be up here talking about still in another 30 years.

When we have something to take out to the public we will take it anywhere they want us to go.”