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Call to tear down statue of 'Nazi-linked' Russell

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The statue of Sean Russell in Fairview Park as previously been vandalised over his Nazi links

The statue of Sean Russell in Fairview Park as previously been vandalised over his Nazi links

The statue of Sean Russell in Fairview Park as previously been vandalised over his Nazi links

Dublin City Council will consider a request to remove the statue of former IRA chief of staff Sean Russell, who had links to the Nazis, from a Dublin park.

Fine Gael councillor Ray McAdam is writing to the council requesting that it explore the possibility of removing the statue, which is based in Fairview Park on Dublin's northside.

It comes after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar raised the possibility of it being removed in the context of the current debate around the tearing down of statues commemorating slave traders in the US and the UK during recent Black Lives Matter protests.

Russell, a republican who fought in the Easter Rising, died aboard a German U-boat in August 1940 after he travelled to Nazi Germany seeking support for a plan to attack the North with help from Hitler's forces.

Appropriate

"The Nazis were the ultimate racists and we shouldn't be commemorating people who would be supportive of or operated hand in glove with them," Mr McAdam said.

"In this day and age Dublin City Council has the responsibility to consider whether it is appropriate whether we commemorate such individuals."

Another Fine Gael councillor, Naoise O Muiri, said: "I think the time is opportune to look at it. I am not advocating somebody pull it down and put it in the Tolka."

Dublin City Council said it had not yet received the request but will consider it.

"The council considers all proposals regarding the removal and decommissioning of public art, including statues. These are considered on a case by case basis under the council's Policy for Decommissioning Public Art," a spokeswoman said.

The statue is owned by the National Graves Association, whose chairman Sean Whelan said it would strongly oppose its removal.

"The accusation of Sean Russell being pro-fascist is absolutely untrue. The fascists in Ireland in the 1930s were the Blueshirts, not the IRA," he said.

Mr Whelan pointed to evidence that Russell sought help from the Soviet Union and the US, and said there was no evidence that he was sympathetic to the Nazi cause.

Russell's legacy is defended by Sinn Fein, whose leader Mary Lou McDonald eulogised him at an event in 2003 and last month told the Sunday Independent: "He was a militarist, but he was not a Nazi collaborator."

Russell's statue was first erected in 1951 and replaced in 1965. It has been vandalised on numerous occasions, but in recent years security mechanisms including sensors have been put in place to prevent further acts of vandalism.

Speaking to RTE's 2fm yesterday, Mr Varadkar said: "We have a few of our own statues we may need to take down.

"There is a statue in Fairview Park in Dublin of an Irish republican man who was also a Nazi collaborator... I think any statues that come down should come down legally... let's not engage in violence."

Sinn Fein TD Eoin O Broin said he was open to the debate on removing the statue but defended Russell's legacy, saying he was someone who "made huge errors of judgment and was incredibly naive politically".

Mr O Broin claimed the Taoiseach "was a bit stung" after Fine Gael councillor Jim O'Leary defended a late-night tweet in which he expressed his "love" for a picture of Blueshirts performing a Nazi-style salute.

Mr O Broin added that as a former Belfast city councillor, he was familiar with the issues surrounding statues and emblems.

"In the first instance you need a proper conversation and it needs to be done in a mature way," he said.

"I think you always need to make sure where people have a controversial past they're made clear in any plaques or whatever."