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Irish eyes aren’t smiling: Proposal to name REM station for Landry sparks outcry

WATCH: A proposal to name Griffintown's REM station after Bernard Landry is drawing outrage from Montreal's Irish community.

Montreal’s Irish community reacted with shock and outrage over the city’s proposal to name the future REM station in Griffintown after sovereigntist premier Bernard Landry.

“It’s kind of ridiculous. It would be like naming Mordecai Richler station in East End Montreal. I mean it’s nonsense, actually,” said Fergus Keyes, a director of the Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation.

READ MORE: Montreal Mayor hopes to name Griffintown REM train station after Bernard Landry

Although developers are building condos in Griffintown at a dizzying pace, the area remains the historical cornerstone of Montreal’s Irish community. Keyes says the area was almost 100 per cent Irish until the mid-20th century. He says the city’s Irish community helped develop Montreal, pointing to the Lachine Canal, the Victoria Bridge and St. Mary’s Hospital — structures all built with Irish hands.

He says naming naming the REM station after Landry is an insult to Irish heritage.

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“He has no connection to Griffintown — it makes no sense you would name a station in Griffintown after Bernard Landry.”

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The Irish community say they’re especially surprised by Valerie Plante’s proposal, since recently, they’ve worked well with the city. They’ve pushed for years to establish a memorial park near the Black Rock monument, where 6,000 Irish died 170 years ago. They believe the entire area should honour Montreal’s Irish heritage.

“It’s a Canadian story about how immigrants were welcomed and integrated and helped develop the country we have now,” said Scott Phelan, the past president of the St. Patrick’s Society. “So to pave over that history, to name it something else, I think we all believe would be an error.”

WATCH: Montreal Irish history from St. Patrick’s Day 2016

Little known facts about Montreal’s Irish community
Little known facts about Montreal’s Irish community

The city, though, isn’t backing down. In a statement, Mayor Valerie Plante’s office said:

“Bernard Landry did a lot for Montreal and Quebec. We believe that naming the REM station in Griffintown in his name is appropriate for someone who wanted to develop the Cite du Multimedia.”

The statement continues: “We hope to find other means of honouring the important contribution from the Irish community.”

A spokesman for the REM told Global News they are open to the city’s proposal, but they are establishing a committee to oversee the naming of all stations. They won’t say when any decision will be made.

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REM work right on track says Minister, despite recent reports suggesting otherwise
REM work right on track says Minister, despite recent reports suggesting otherwise