Monday, October 22, 2012

Birmingham Irish community “betrayed” by Birmingham City Council

Birmingham Irish community “betrayed” by Birmingham City Council – an open letter to Councillor Sir Albert Bore from John Fitzgerald, Minstrel Music, Irish Centre, Digbeth

John F Kennedy Memorial Mosaic 

The Betrayal
The deceitful and underhand ways that have now come to light over the JFK Memorial Mosaic, does no credit to the people who have gone against the decisions agreed at previous meetings, to decide the future of this much admired and loved mosaic. 

Someone at Birmingham City Council, and others lurking in the background, have gone against the wishes of the thousands of Irish people not only in Birmingham but visitors to the City even from abroad who wanted to the memorial restored to its former glory.

A memorial to John F Kennedy and John F Kennedy ONLY with no additions or alterations.

When it was decided to redevelop St Chads Circus, I met with Oliver Budd, son of Kenneth Budd who designed the mosaic in 1967-68. Also at this meeting were:
  • Members of Birmingham City Council planning group 
  • Brendan Farrell correspondent at that time with the Irish Post 
  • Eddie Dunne and Paddy Rochford – Wexford County Association 
  • Pat O’Neill – Irish Forum 
  • Patsy Davis – Irish Heritage Group 

Mr Budd pointed out some significant damage to the mural due to wear and tear over the thirty years the memorial was in place.

He assured us that he could preserve the original portraits of key people such as JFK, Martin Luther King, etc, and incorporate these into a new mosaic. Following on from this a full community meeting was held in 2002 at the Irish Fm office in Chapel House Street, Digbeth. Oliver Budd presented various options at this meeting; the group present were unanimous in its support for option 3b, for the preservation of this unique memorial to John F Kennedy, namely the conservation of important elements of the original portraits of key people such as JFK, Martin Luther King, etc. And their incorporation into a new replica mosaic work. It was felt that this option provides both a link to the past and the flexibility to tailor the memorial to its new setting hopefully within the proposed Irish Quarter.

The next meeting called was in the Irish Centre 2010. This meeting was to agree a suitable location for the memorial. All present voted in favour of the corner of Floodgate Street and Digbeth High Street (opposite South Birmingham College).

People who attended these meetings have heard nothing since that time, only to see various conflicting reports in different newspapers. It has now come to light, but only through a photograph in the Harp newspaper that the late Mike Nangle, former Lord Mayor of Birmingham, is to be incorporated into what is the John F Kennedy memorial mosaic. This is not what was agreed at the various meetings I and many other people attended. While Mike Nangle was a well respected member of the community, so also, was Rev Fr Maguire who along with the late Joe McGlynn and Billy Hestor worked so hard with the help of the Irish Community to raise the £5,000 to create this mosaic.

There is also Rev Fr Murphy from the Irish Centre in Moat Row who fifty years ago worked so hard to help young Irish people coming to the city for the first time, or the late Rev Fr Joe Taffe who contributed so much to the Irish Community.

It’s the John F Kennedy memorial mosaic only and it’s sad that some people in our community, that maybe we felt we could trust, can go behind the backs of all the people who attended these meetings and change the whole concept of this mosaic.

I am sure I speak for a lot of good Irish people in Birmingham who feel as strongly as I do over this betrayal. How wrong can one be about people?

I have called a special meeting in the Irish Centre in Digbeth for Thursday 25th October 2012 at 7.30pm. Please be there.

John Fitzgerald
Minstrel Music
Irish Centre


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