A voice of authority

As regular visitors here will know one of the major irritants in my life is the debilitating condition of historical illiteracy.

There is a lot of it around.

When it was announced last year that Glasgow City was planning to erect a memorial to the Irish famine I was concerned that historical accuracy might be sacrificed in order to get people on board.

That is why I am delighted at the news that Professor Tom Devine will now be almost certainly be invited by the City Council working party that was formed to establish the nature and setting of the memorial to An Gorta Mór in Glasgow.

He is the acknowledged authority on modern Scottish history by his peers within academe.

In this piece in the Herald by Gerry Braiden Professor Devine warns that the memorial must be grounded in historical fact rather than the narrative that some may wish to peddle for their own 21st century agendas.

As I have written before my wish for the memorial is that it be city centre (my preferred site is the Broomielaw), secular in nature and eschew any political message.

The sculpture on Custom House Quay in Dublin is, for me, the benchmark.

What is depicted there by the Liffey is a humanitarian tragedy.

However, it was an avoidable catastrophe to say the least.

The island of Ireland remained a net food exporter throughout those awful years.

Westminster looked on, perhaps approvingly, as a million died and a million left never to return.

The British government of Tony Blair has apologised to the Irish people for the criminal negligence of the British state.

That apology has been accepted and we move on.

Now it is time for Glasgow to finally acknowledge in the public space that the Famine played a crucial role in the city’s narrative.

I am now more confident than ever that this job will be done properly and the city that gave the world the “Famine song” will now finally pay respect to those who died and those who fled An Gorta Mór.

With Professor Devine on the team I am sure that whatever the working party decide on will be grounded in historical fact.

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