Westmeath County Council has come under fire for “washing its hands” of a controversial Republican monument in Mullingar’s Famine Graveyard that was erected in secrecy without planning permission last year.
The monument was also erected without consultation with the voluntary committee who have maintained the graveyard in Robinstown for 25 years.
A spokesperson for the committee said that there is no indication that the people who erected the monument carried out any prior archaeological assessment at the graveyard before construction.
The committee wants the monument to be removed and put into storage until “due process has been followed”.
A spokesperson for the committee said: “Was a forensic archaeologist present when the base for this structure was excavated into the graveyard containing the remains of the Famine victims?
“Why were the views of the local Famine committee, which has cared for this graveyard for the past quarter of a century, not sought as to the appropriateness of the structure and the contents thereon?
“Why were the opinions of the local historians who have researched the effects of the Famine in this area and published authoritative accounts of this event not sought and considered?”
The spokesperson said that the committee had been in contact with the council over the future of the monument, but up to now had been disappointed with its response.
The inscription on the monument, which was erected in memory of the “starvelings of 1845-1850 buried in piles”, claims the members of the British army “removed livestock and food crops from this district”.
The spokesperson says that the tone of the inscription is at “variance” with the non-political ethos of the graveyard committee.
“The local Famine graveyard committee is a non political community organisation, which liaises closely with the local authority and complies with the stipulations of the OPW on the care of graveyards such as this one.
“The sentiments expressed on the monument are personal, political and partisan. They are not in keeping with the present good relationships we have developed with our nearest neighbour and are at variance with the balanced, considered and mature manner with which we celebrated the recent one 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.
“If permission was neither sought or granted for this monument, it should be removed to storage until due process has been followed.
“Failure to do so gives the green light to individuals and organisations to erect monuments and structures in public places throughout the county wherever they see fit.”
The Westmeath Examiner contacted Irish-American historian Christopher Fogarty, who has funded similar monuments at Famine graveyards across the country, and is believed to have funded the monument in Mullingar.
Mr Fogarty was asked a number of questions relating to his involvement in the erection of the monument, but at the time of writing, though he had replied to our emails, Mr Fogarty had not provided a response to our specific queries.
The paper also contacted Westmeath County Council about its position relating to the monument, and at the time of writing had not received a response.