Renaming parks and memory

Dublin City Council is going to ask the ‘the people of Dublin’ – however they are defined I am not sure – to help to come up with a new name for a park within a park. We’re going to be asked:

to submit ideas on an appropriate change of name for the park in Merrion Square, now formally known as Archbishop Ryan Park.

Apart from the empty, meaningless and pettifogging political gesturing that this brings on, we are now living post-Ryan and Murphy reports and, as we are repeatedly being told, “we are where we are”. While the Council are at it perhaps they might ask Dublin dwellers to submit ideas on how to improve the 19th century water infrastructure or on their insistence that business representative groups get to decide transport and pedestrian policy. My morning newspaper of choice – that distillation of my own ideological suppositions – tells me that:

From 1930 the square had been leased to the archdiocese by the Pembroke Estate. The intention had been to build a cathedral there.

If there was ever a place in Dublin that represents how the institutional Catholic Church, the landed classes and the civil authorities combined to gloss over the public interest, it is this place. Archbishop Ryan was stated in the Murphy reports on sexual abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese not to have exercised his canon law power to protect children, among other wilful neglects of function. The City Council wants us to feel the full force of its administrative power by renaming a park.

I have a proposal for the City Council: keep it as Archbishop Ryan park and place an additional information panel next to the entrance explaining who he was, why the park is named thus and reprinting the relevant parts from Judge Murphy’s report. Perhaps this one might be appropriate:

All the Archbishops and many of the auxiliary bishops in the period covered by the Commission handled child sexual abuse complaints badly. During the period under review, there were four Archbishops – Archbishops McQuaid, Ryan, McNamara and Connell. Not one of them reported his knowledge of child sexual abuse to the Gardaí throughout the 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s. (Part 1, section 1.36; my emphasis)

Do not make it an interactive touch screen affair nor adorn it with logos of any kind. Just print the words on a plain white sheet with the appropriate referencing to the report and where the citizens of Dublin can find copies of the report in the nearest public library. In as much as the Murphy reports are the truth, then we should know the truth. If Archbishop Ryan park is renamed can I suggest that the City Council begin a process to rename vast swathes of residential Dublin that begin with ‘Saint’. Saint Enda’s Road, Saint Michael’s Road, Saint Peter’s Road, St Ita’s Road. The people of Crumlin, Cabra, Drimnagh and Glasnevin would only be too happy to oblige. It seems we are not to be trusted with making up our own minds about our built environment.

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