Hibernians Protest Proposed Memorial Siting

A ruined cottage from County Mayo is part of the Great Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City.


By Irish Echo Staff

It is not the idea of a memorial to the essential workers who got us all through the Covid-19 pandemic that has aroused Hibernian ire.

It is the possible siting of it.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians says it is "shocked and perplexed" by the announcement from New Governor Andrew Cuomo of the intention to erect a "Circle of Heroes" Essential Workers Memorial at the site of the current Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan.

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The Hibernians, in a statement, said they "fully support a memorial recognizing the courage and sacrifice of essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially given the large number of Irish Americans among these heroes."

But the AOH continued in its statement: "However, concerning the proposal to put this memorial at the site of the Irish Hunger Memorial, we remember the word of Governor Cuomo himself, who upon hearing of the NYC Schools Chancellor's proposal to rename Columbus Day to 'Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous Peoples' Day,' stated 'Why do you feel the need to diminish the Italian American contribution to recognize the indigenous peoples' contribution?....You can have an Indigenous Peoples' Day without intruding on Columbus Day, and that is the spirit of New York.'"

The statement added : "The Hibernians ask the governor why now the double standard when it comes to the Irish Hunger Memorial. Why is the governor seeking to diminish the contributions of Irish Americans in an attempt to create a memorial to honor the contributions of Essential Workers?

"The proposal to build another memorial around the perimeter of the Irish Hunger Memorial is disrespectful to the memory of the over one million people who perished and the over one million people who were forced to leave Ireland when ineptitude and remorselessness by the ruling British government turned a crop failure into an unequaled humanitarian disaster.

"We note that renderings of the Circle of Heroes memorial would compromise the design of the monument to look out onto the waters that so many Irish men and women crossed at great peril to build a new life in America and the symbolism of the monument looking onto both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

"The Irish Hunger Memorial calls us not only to remember the Irish victims of the Great Hunger but, as attested to by the quotes from world leaders that adorn its base, challenges us to address the still all too prevalent challenge of hunger and indifference in our current society. The Irish Hunger Memorial's important message speaks to people of all communities and should not be eclipsed and cast into the shadows of another memorial no matter how undeniably worthy.

"The Hibernians are perplexed at the need to create an Essential Workers memorial in little more than two months and without proper consultation with all community members and the location of a suitable site. Our Essential Worker heroes deserve more than a rush job that seems more grounded in politics than commemoration, with the Irish Hunger Memorial being collateral damage."