Northern Ireland news

Council to establish responsibility for John Mitchel statue

John Mitchel and, left, his statue in Newry
Connla Young

A CO Down-based council is set to clarify who is responsible for a statue of a republican icon John Mitchel.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s Councillors’ Equality and Good Relations Reference Group took the decision at a meeting last week.

There were calls for the statue to be removed earlier this month due to Mr Mitchel's support for the US slave trade in the 1800s.

Originally from Dungiven in Co Derry, the prominent member of the Young Ireland movement later lived in Newry in Co Down.

After being transported to Van Diemen's Land he later escaped to the US where he was a supporter of the pro-slavery Confederate states.

A petition calling for the statue to be removed from John Mitchell Place in Newry has collected more than 1,000 signatures.

A separate petition has gained over 200 names.

The issue has now been referred to the council's good relations group, which allows discussion of politically sensitive and contentious issues.

In a statement last night Newry, Mourne and Down council said work will now be carried out to establish responsibility for the statue.

“Following constructive discussion between elected members on the John Mitchel statue and John Mitchel Place, it was agreed that officers proceed to clarify responsibility for the John Mitchel statue, develop options for an education programme, identify the origins of John Mitchel Place and give consideration as to other potential issues in relation to slavery within the council area,” it said.

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