THERE are continuing calls for a plaque to an Irish Confederate hero to be taken down in Co. Galway, as tensions over similar memorials flare in the United States.
This week, police in Texas arrested a man for allegedly attempting to blow up a statue of Irish Confederate lieutenant Richard ‘Dick’ Dowling because he “did not like that guy”.
Andrew Schneck, 25 of Albans Road, Houston, was discovered by a park ranger on Saturday, August 19, kneeling in bushes near to the memorial dedicated to the Galway-born soldier.
A similar memorial to Lieutenant Dowling in Tuam has seen America’s debate over Confederate monuments spill over into Ireland, where a Galway councillor has said that a plaque to the Irishman should be taken down.
Councillor Shaun Cunniffe said that he does not believe that the plaque should be destroyed, but “rather removed and placed in a more appropriate setting, like a museum.”
Mr Cunniffe told the Connacht Tribune that it remains his “gut feeling” that the plaque should be removed in light of the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Dick Dowling was born near Tuam, Co. Galway in 1837. His family fled Ireland in 1845 – the first year of the Great Famine – after being evicted.
The plaque, erected in Tuam Town Hall in 1998, praises Dowling as a “business and civic leader” who formed the first ever oil company in Texas.
— VisitGalway (@visit_galway) August 22, 2017
It also mentions that Dowling and his men foiled an invasion of Texas by 5,000 Union Troops at Sabine Pass on September 8, 1863 during the American Civil War, but does not mention that he was in the Confederate Army.
Clrr Cunliffe said the plaque highlighted the “tunnel vision” of those who praised Dowling’s successes as a businessman, without mentioning his support of slavery.
He added: “It is extraordinary that his family were evicted in 1845, he did very well in America, yet fought to enslave other people.”
Downling, who died aged just 30 in 1867, has proved a controversial figure in Houston, Texas in recent years.
The statue in Hermann Park which police foiled an alleged bombing attempt against was the first public memorial to be erected in the Texan city in 1905.
Two local streets – Dowling Street and Tuam Street – were named after the controversial Irishman, but the former was renamed Emancipation Avenue earlier this year.
Last year, Dowling Middle School in the city was renamed Audrey H Lawson Middle School as part of an ongoing renaming campaign in Houston.