Proposals for a new statue of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, to be placed in Westminster’s Parliament Square, were rejected this week amid fears of vandalism.
The controversial proposal was rejected by the government, Royal Parks and neighbours given the divisive nature of her premiership and the short time passed since her death.
It was even suggested that this statue would be subject to similar, or worse, treatment as the Winston Churchill statue which was given a Mohican during an anti-capitalist protest in 2000.
Yet, given that Margaret Thatcher not only changed the face of Britain during her premiership but that her ideas continue to reach across the globe, why should there not be a statue to remember the late PM?
This week’s controversy across the water raises questions for us here in Northern Ireland: why don’t we build more statues of our politicians?
Across Great Britain there are countless statues dedicated to political figures from this part of the world and elsewhere – from Oliver Cromwell to Abraham Lincoln to Nelson Mandela – but the same cannot be said of Northern Ireland.
We have few statues of politicians here; that of Sir Edward Carson at Stormont will spring immediately to our minds, of the former unionist leader standing with his back to a parliament he never wanted.
Certainly, the lack of politician-inspired statues reflects the long-divided nature of our politics. Instead of statues we rely heavily upon murals dedicated to political and paramilitary figures revered within the geopolitical areas they are raised; often feared by other communities in equal measure.
As a population we are comfortable to name things after celebrities – the George Best Belfast City Airport’s re-brand in 2006 is one example – but sense that naming roads or buildings after politicians would cause further division.
Naming an airport after a footballer was not a hugely controversial decision despite Best’s well-known alcoholism and, some would argue, questionable credentials as a role model.
If an airport can be named after a talented footballer, why can there not be dedications to political figures that have helped shaped our society? Every individual and every society needs role models; are they lacking in Northern Irish politics?