Campaign signs on 'sacred' Black Rock site to be removed after outcry

Members of Montreal’s Irish community say that new campaign posters on a sacred site commemorating the death of 6,000 Irish people is disrespectful — and they should be removed immediately.

'This is indeed a cemetery,' said the director of the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation

The Parti Québécois says it will remove this sign, erected near the Black Rock monument in Montreal. (Kevin Murphy)

Members of Montreal's Irish community say that erecting new campaign posters on a sacred site commemorating the death of 6,000 Irish people is disrespectful — and they should be removed immediately.

"This is a sacred site to all the Irish in Montreal, and it should be for everybody," said Kevin Murphy, a Montrealer of Irish descent.

Three posters are at the site of the Black Rock: two from the Parti Québécois, and one from the Quebec Liberal Party,

The Black Rock holds immense meaning for the city's Irish community. It was erected by bridge workers in 1859 to honour the 6,000 Irish famine refugees who died of typhus in 1847. They are buried at the site in a mass grave.

Murphy said he was shocked when a friend sent him a photo of the campaign signs around the rock.

"Both of us were incensed," he said.

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Their outrage spread quickly, and by the afternoon, the director of the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation, Fergus Keyes, issued a news release calling for the signs to be removed.

"This is indeed a cemetery, and both parties have dug into the ground in order to install their sign," reads the news release.

Parti Québécois, Liberals to remove signs

By Tuesday afternoon, the PQ responded on Twitter, saying their signs would be removed.

"It seems that we, along with other political parties, put up signs near the Irish Memorial Park in Montreal," wrote party spokeswoman Antonine Yaccarini​.

"We offer our apologies and rest assured that this is an error made in good faith."

In contrast, the Liberals initially doubled-down and refused to move their sign, saying it is not directly on the memorial, and that it does not obscure the view of the Black Rock.

Later on Tuesday, a spokesperson confirmed to CBC News that they, too, will remove their sign.

An example and an opportunity

Murphy said the parties' response presents an example of why the Irish community has fought to preserve the Black Rock as a solemn commemorative location, and an opportunity to do more.

"It's an opportunity for all of the political parties, with Hydro-Québec, who own the land adjacent, to come out and publicly state, which Hydro-Québec already has, that they're committed to helping us make that commemoration possible."

With files from Kate McKenna and Navneet Pall