Montreal’s Irish community upset with city’s plan to name REM station after late premier

Click to play video: 'Irish community up in arms over naming REM station after Bernard Landry'
Irish community up in arms over naming REM station after Bernard Landry
WATCH: Irish community up in arms over naming REM station after Bernard Landry – Nov 7, 2019

The City of Montreal unveiled the name for its Griffintown REM station on Monday — Griffintown-Bernard-Landry — leaving some in the Irish community upset.

Monday’s announcement comes as the city’s Irish community has been fighting for months for the light-rail system’s Griffintown station to be called Griffintown only, in tribute to the area’s historic Irish roots.

According to the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network, the name Griffintown was derived from an Irish woman called Mary Griffin who lived in the neighbourhood, which was mainly populated by Irish immigrants. More than 70,000 refugees left Ireland and crossed the ocean to Montreal in 1847 during the Great Famine.

The city announced its proposal to name the station Griffintown-Bernard-Landry after the late premier Bernard Landry in November, sparking pushback from Montreal’s Irish community.

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Members of the community argued that their ancestors built the area and that it would be offensive to name the station after Landry, who they say had no ties to the neighbourhood.

“I certainly don’t pretend to speak for the entire Irish community of Montreal,” said Fergus Keyes, director of the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation, “but I can tell you everybody is powerfully disappointed.”

Keyes said the choice made by the city demonstrates an ignorance to history and is an arrogant thing to do.

“Everybody who is a Montrealer realizes that Griffintown is an old Irish community. It has been there for 200 years,” Keyes said.

Donovan King, a tour guide in the city who sits on the board of directors for the Irish Monument Park Foundation, told Global News in December that the city’s proposed name lacked respect for Irish heritage.

The Plante administration defended its choice in November, saying Landry did a lot for Montreal and that it was an appropriate name because Landry wanted to develop the Cité du Multimedia, located in that area.

“The fact that we have the name ‘Griffintown – Bernard Landry’ creates a dialogue that we still need today,” she said.

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“But it doesn’t minimize the huge contribution of the Irish community to the city of Montreal,” Plante said.

— with files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise


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