The Irish Government is dipping into state coffers to pay for a plaque commemorating one of the founding fathers of Ulster unionism, it was confirmed today.
The unusual move follows the mysterious disappearance of a memorial to Edward Carson at his birthplace in central Dublin.
The founder of the original Ulster Volunteer Force and renowned barrister, immortalised in the statue that defiantly jabs his finger over Belfast from Stormont, was fiercely opposed to Home Rule in Ireland.
He was also notorious in both the legal and literary worlds for his devastating skills as the lawyer who destroyed the reputation of fellow Dubliner Oscar Wilde during an infamous libel trial.
But after a bronze plaque marking the house on Harcourt Street where he was born a century and half ago was noticed to be missing earlier this year, the Dublin Government got involved.
The Department of Environment confirmed it does not normally pay for the costly memorials – the equivalent of the blue Ulster History Circle plaques in the North – adorning many of the capital city’s Georgian houses.
“We asked Dublin Tourism to replace the plaque but they said they have no money for this so we stepped in and offered to pay for it,” said a department spokesman.
Aides of former Minister for the Environment Dick Roche first brought the removal of the plaque to the attention of the city’s tourist authorities in February.
But when Dublin Tourism said it had no cash in its budget for a replacement, the minister agreed to stump up the expected €1,500 euro of public money for a new plate as a gesture to unionists.
Permission for the sign was previously sought and granted by the owners of the building that now houses the Pie Dish restaurant, as part of Stephen’s Green Hotel.
“Obviously there was an existing sign and if there was the funding there, we would be happy to replace it,” said Catherine Elliott, of Dublin Tourism.
The issue dropped off the radar shortly after it surfaced because of the Republic’s general election in May and the change of environment minister and personnel within his department.
But the new Minister for the Environment John Gormley has now agreed to pay out the cash, although a date has yet to be set for the unveiling of the new plaque.
“The decision was made by the previous minister because of the North/South dimension and that obviously carries on,” said a department spokesman.
“It is hoped it will be erected shortly and the cost will be borne by the department.”
Carson was born into a protestant family at 4 Harcourt Street in 1854 and went on to to study law at Trinity College Dublin before becoming a barrister.
He was later elected to the House of Commons as MP for the university but also involved himself in opposing Home Rule.
Dubbed by followers the “Uncrowned King of Ulster”, in 1912 he founded the original UVF. It imported about 20,000 rifles and two million rounds of ammunition into Larne from Germany two years later.
Buried in St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast, he was the only person ever to receive an official state funeral in the North.