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11.49 22 Aug 2017


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A town in County Galway has found itself embroiled in the debate over US Civil War monuments.

A number of residents in Tuam want to tear down a Town Hall memorial to Major Dick Dowling, a local who fought for the Confederates in the 19th century war.

In the US, the debate over Confederate monuments has led to major protests in recent years, with many opponents arguing that flags and statues celebrate a side that supported slavery.

The recent violence in Charlottesville, Virgina broke out after white nationalists travelled to the town in protest against the proposed removal of statues and the renaming of two city parks.

Cities such as Baltimore have already taken down monuments amid increasing calls for their removal.

Those in favour of the symbols remaining, on the other hand, have been backed by Donald Trump. The US president described the removal of statues as "so foolish".

Earlier this week, it was reported that a Houston man was arrested and charged in an alleged plot to destroy a statue of Dick Dowling.

In Ireland, meanwhile, Tuam independent Councillor Shaun Cunniffe thinks it's time for the Tuam memorial to the major to come down at the Town Hall.

He spoke to Newstalk Breakfast this morning about the situation.

On the history of Dick Dowling himself, Cllr Cunniffe explained: "He emigrated in 1845 from Tuam, to Houston, Texas.

"He was a great entrepreneurial person [...] He was a very notable civic leader and business leader in Houston, and was renowned for that. When the American Civil War broke out [...] he fought on the side of the Confederate army - and was very successful at that."

Dowling was well-regarded in Houston, but he died at the age of 30 only two years after the end of the war.

Cllr Cunniffe says it's not wrong to record who Major Dick Dowling was - but says it's different when the memorial is on a civic building.

He suggested: "It was put up in 1998. The focus at the time from Tuam town council was really on the enormous effect this guy had in Houston - there was streets named after him, parks named after him.

"Unfortunately they overlooked the fact that he was on the side of the American Civil War that wanted to [keep] slavery."

He added: "I think it should be taken down from our civic building, and an appropriate place found in the town. We don't have a museum as such, but there are other buildings. We can discuss in our municipal meeting where would be appropriate."

Calls for removal of plaque in Tuam honouring Confederate major

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