Here in the U.S. we have focused much attention on Confederate memorials in the South. Some folks see them as offensive, while others see them as memorial to the fallen. The change in how these memorials are perceived comes with the dramatic political changes in the South. This phenomenon is new to the U.S. but it is not new in other countries. Ireland has dealt with the question of changing politics and permanent memorials for decades. Ireland achieved its independence in 1922. Yet, it suffered under 700 years of British rule and it inherited dozens of British memorials and statues.
The Irish Republic was in no hurry to remove the statues when independence first arrived. In Dublin, there were several such statues. One statue to the great Admiral Horatio Nelson endured until 1966, the fiftieth anniversary of the 1916 Rising. It was blown up by unknown Dubliners that year. A monument to William, Prince of Orange, had also been blown up by unknown Irish in the 1930’s.
A statue of Queen Victoria, once centrally located in Dublin, was moved to storage in the late 1940’s. Later, it given to the City of Sidney, Australia. But, the figures which once surrounded Queen Victoria, figures representing the sacrifices of Irish soldiers in the Boer war remain. A statue to Prince Albert, the Queen’s husband, remains in Dublin today, tucked away in a corner of a public park. See Dublin Inquirer report here.
But, there are numerous British statues throughout Ireland that still remain. Francis Drake has a statue in County Cork. The Duke of Wellington has at least one monument, located in County Meath. The Duke was born in and grew up in Ireland. In his political life, he advocated Catholic emancipation, even though he himself was Protestant. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, the center of the Church of Ireland, holds numerous monuments to heroes of the British Empire, including two generals who took part in the Charge of the Light Brigade, and a Lord Lieutenant of Ireland or two. And, of course, there is a statue of a young Queen Victoria in Cork City, County Cork. It had been literally buried in a garden until 1995, when it was resurrected and cleaned up for display for University College Cork. The problem with disposing of much of this statuary is that most of it was crafted by the finest Irish scupltors of the day.
If you look closely, most public buildings in Dublin bear some marker, coat of arms, or emblem of the royal family or of the crown itself. Those sorts of markers are literally everywhere on any building constructed before 1923.
There is a triumphal arch in Dublin on Grafton Street to commemorate the service of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who fell in the Boer War of 1899-1902. Even today, some refer to it as the “traitor’s gate.” But, prior to 1916, many, perhaps most average Irish saw themselves as loyal British subjects. See History Ireland article about the Boer War arch here.
Some 200,000 Irish served in the British Army during World War I. Yet, hundreds of Irish served in the Boer forces during the same war. Those Irish were only too happy to serve in an army fighting the British. A few of them would later participate in and lead the Easter Rising of 1916. There is no arch commemorating their service supporting the Boer and against the British Empire.
Not to mention the many street names which mark some British Empire hero or two. One County Cork Councillor has campaigned on the plan to change those colonial era street names. Many residents objected, especially persons who live on those streets and did not wish to change their address.
On significant difference between Ireland and the Southern United States is that after independence, tens of thousands or Irish protestants left Ireland. The families of the persons who first erected and supported these pro-British monuments are much in the minority in Ireland. While in the U.S. South, numerous supporters of those Confederate monuments remain. But, the controversy is the same in both countries. Politics may change, but many of those memorials remain.