Happy International Women’s Day 2024

Tomorrow is International Women's Day and I'll be using it to write to Minister for Media in Ireland about the need for a statue of Maud Gonne in Dublin.

GPO Dublin
GPO Dublin under an Irish sky today

I came through Dublin today, on my way home from an unexpected visit to Ireland, and thought I’d use the opportunity to take a photograph of the exact spot where I’d like to see the monument erected – in the pedestrian island in the centre of O’Connell Street, opposite the GPO (general post office), a very historical building in Dublin.

I had originally thought of the statue being outside the GPO itself. In the 1920s, Maud Gonne walked the widows of the Easter Rising, War of Independence, Civil War, from Stephen’s green, a half-mile away, to the GPO, to protest the rights of political prisoners (ardent Republicans) in the new Irish free state.

And for decades afterwards she used to climb up on her soapbox outside the GPO to make ardent speeches about injustice.

I had this vision of a statue of her in her later years, with a fist raised, still defiant.

But then in conversation with a friend, one of Ireland’s most gifted feminist historians, a different thought emerged. As Maud aged, her politics matured. She remained just as dedicated as she had always been, but the warmongering that characterised her youth mellowed. As my friend put it, “she retained the passion without the fire”.

Her experience of nursing soldiers, and losing her nephew, and many other loved ones in the first world war, turned her into a pacifist.

Maud in later life, in a publicity voting shot, with her son Seán Mac Bride

In her later decades, she lived with her son Seán MacBride, co-founder of Amnesty International, the human rights organisation, and its International Chairman for many years. Without a doubt Seán’s humanitarian work was strongly influenced by his mother’s ideas and politics.

A statue of her marching peacefully but determinedly along the island, in the opposite direction, towards home on the south side of the city where she lived, felt even more fitting, we thought.

This is the direction that all the political marches in O’Connell St take.

So I went to take a picture of that space on the pedestrian island and

what did I find, right there, right on that spot, but a flower tribute to Alexi Navani, the Russian human rights campaigner illegally sentenced for denouncing the war against Ukraine, and killed yesterday by the Putin regime.

Navany was an activist in Maud‘s own mode, the kind of prisoner she campaigned for, and now a powerful symbol of bravery and incorruptibility.

It seemed serendipitous.

[Featured Image = AI generated artist's impressionist via DALL-E]

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