Controversy over Che Guevara project rumbles on in the USAJuly 10, 2012 - 7:00am
BY CIARAN TIERNEY
The local politician who received unanimous backing when he proposed that Galway City Council should honour Latin American revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara has admitted that he has been taken aback by the criticism he has received from the United States.
Cllr Billy Cameron (Labour) has been subjected to vehement criticism from members of the Cuban-American community in Miami since word first spread that the Council intends to honour the revolutionary hero with a five metre high monument in Salthill.
The issue received transatlantic coverage again this week when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd described the controversy as an “international incident” in an opinion piece which was syndicated all across the US and was reproduced in yesterday’s Irish Times.
Ms Dowd, who received an honorary degree from NUI Galway last Friday, described Cllr Cameron as a “lefty” with a “bizarre idea” and pointed out that outgoing Mayor Hildegarde Naughton, among others, had backed down from supporting his plan.
Yesterday, Cllr Cameron reiterated his support for the monument, although he admitted that he would settle for a scaled-down version of the structure at another location, after people became surprised by the size of the Salthill Promenade plan.
“I am gobsmacked by the reaction this has got, in terms of the negative coverage in the United States,” said Cllr Cameron. “Che was a major figure of 20th century politics and this plan first came about because of his Galway heritage.”
Cllr Cameron said that the project was first mooted during a “chance meeting” he had with the Ambassadors of Argentina and Cuba to Ireland at a Labour Party conference last year. He has described the proposed structure as a gift to Galway City from the two countries.
After the members of Galway City Council unanimously agreed to back his plan to honour the revolutionary leader – because of his connection with the Blake and Lynch tribes of Galway – criticism soon began to pour in from the Cuban-American community in Florida.
The Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, described Guevara as a “mass murderer and human rights abuser” in a letter to the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and Cllr Cameron has had to field regular questions from elements of the US media ever since.
For more, read this week's Connacht Sentinel.