Controversy over Shelbourne’s removal of slave statues

The decision of Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel to remove statues of shackled slave girls from its historic façade has been met with both applause and criticism.

The bronze sculptures of two princesses and their slave girls were commissioned by the hotel in 1867 and stood for more than 150 years before being taken down this week, due to their association with slavery.

The move comes as statues linked to colonialism and slavery have been toppled by Black Lives Matter protestors around the world. The hotel has said it will replace the statues with a new monument symbolising Irish heritage.

They had nothing to do with modern slavery and the demand for the removal of statues associated with the 18th century slave trade.

Journalist and author Frank McDonald said the statues are works of art and should not have been removed: “So what if they depict two Nubian princesses and two slave girls from Ancient Egypt because that was 4,000 years ago.

“They had nothing to do with modern slavery and the demand for the removal of statues associated with the 18th century slave trade.”

As the façade of the hotel is a protected structure, planning permission must be given by Dublin City Council before any alterations are made.

Dublin City Council has said it is not aware of permission being granted to remove the four statues and that the matter is under investigation by its planning enforcement office. The Irish Georgian Society has said it was never consulted.

As an urban planner I should know planning can suppress as well as liberate.

Green Party MEP and architect Ciarán Cuffe initially criticised the move in a tweet, but has since apologised, saying “as an urban planner I should know planning can suppress as well as liberate.”

Many others have welcomed the move, with Dr Ebun Joseph, an author and creator of the first black studies module in the State at University College Dublin, saying “This is how to self regulate and just do the good thing.”

Others said though history should be taught, "symbols of slavery" should be removed.