British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said said it would not be right to remove the statue of Oliver Cromwell despite the fact he “killed so many thousands of people in Ireland”.
Johnson also condemned pressure for the removal of the Winston Churchill statue in London, saying it is “absurd and deplorable” to suggest the statue of the genocidal former British Prime Minister should be removed.
Despite the global protests against racism, imperialism and colonialism which have now reached every continent, Johnson said in a Facebook post that Britons should not be “sucked into the never-ending debate” about which statues are “politically correct”.
Referencing Oliver Cromwell, the infamous British colonial despot who oppressed Irish Catholics and directed atrocities against them, and whose statue still stands outside the Westminster parliament, he wrote: “Where will it end? Are we supposed to haul down Cromwell who killed so many thousands of people in Ireland?”
Defending Churchill, whose actions led up to 3 million people losing their lives in India and who described Indians “a beastly people with a beastly religion”, Johnson praised him as a hero and said he had “changed with the times”.
More controversially, he indicated support for fascists who rioted in London last weekend in defence of the statue, stating: “I expect I am not alone in saying that I will resist with every breath in my body any attempt to remove that statue from Parliament Square.”
Mr Johnson’s article comes following a wave of calls and protests for statues celebrating slave traders to be removed as part of the anti-racism demonstrations taking part across the world.
In Bristol, demonstrators motivated by the campaign tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston after years of campaigning to have it removed. A college in Oxford has also announced that it will take down a statue of notorious 19th century British colonist and racist Cecil Rhodes.
Johnson’s article wasn’t the only one to make a link to anti-Irish sentiment in Britain. Unionist racists who rioted in Glasgow city centre last weekend were heard to shout “Fenian Bas*****” as they clashed with Scottish police.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar has said that there are some statues in Ireland that “we need to talk about”, namely one of Seán Russell in Dublin’s Fairview Park.
Russell, a republican who fought in the Easter Rising, died aboard a German U-boat in August 1940 after holding discussions on a plan to liberate the island of Ireland from British rule.
Mr Russell’s extensive legacy is defended by republicans, who noted that discussion around the Russell statue only came after pressure on Fine Gael to sack a party councillor after he expressed his “love” for a picture of Fine Gael’s ‘Blueshirt’ predecessors performing a Nazi salute.
Republican Sinn Féin described the Taoiseach’s call as “a display of historical illiteracy”.
“This should be seen for what it is, another opportunity to put the boot into Irish Republicanism and to deflect from the very real fascist history of his own Fine Gael party.”