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Cork Lord Mayor 'very much regrets' all lives matter remark during Frederick Douglass commemoration

Joe Kavanagh said he “100% supports” the Black Lives Matter movement.

THE LORD MAYOR of Cork has said he “very much regrets” making a remark suggesting ‘all lives matter’ during an online event commemorating former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. 

Fine Gael councillor Joe Kavanagh made the remark while introducing an event as a part of a festival to celebrate the life of Douglass last night.

Kavanagh was questioned during the live-streamed event by a number of panellists over his use of language, however, he explained that the point he was trying to make was that “in my eyes everybody is equal” and that the remarks were picked up “incorrectly”. 

Douglass Week organisers said they shared the disappointment expressed by some attendees and panellists at the use of the phrase “that is frequently used to criticise and undermine the Black Lives Matter movement”.

Quoting Dr Naomi Masheti of the Cork Migrant Centre, organisers said the term Black Lives Matter has come to be associated with racial justice across the globe and all lives matter is mainly used as a reaction to Black Lives Matter “in such a way that it diminishes or de-legitimizes Black people’s experiences of inequalities”. 

“We believe that the conversation was an important one and was carried on in a respectful way by all involved. Panellists responded to the discussion proactively, and several contributors explained very well the importance and context of Black Lives Matter as a slogan and a movement,” organisers said. 

The organisers of the event said it was regrettable that this discussion has distracted from the outstanding work of the young artists from the Cork Migrant Centre but they hope this will “contribute to an important dialogue that will be carried well beyond the span of one week”.

Kavanagh addressed last night’s remarks while opening this evening’s webinar: 

“I very much regret last night during one such event, I made a spontaneous contribution to the conference that I now understand may have caused offence and disappointment.

“I recognised that I should have been more careful with my use of language, and I fully acknowledged this at the conclusion of yesterday’s session.”

He said he “100% supports” Black Lives Matter and that this week has served to deepen his understanding of the social and racial justice campaigns that underpin the movement.

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frederick-douglass-slavery-abolitionist-politics-man-historical Source: JT Vintage/PA

Frederick Douglass gave a number of speeches about human rights in Ireland in the 1800s, and events have been running all week to commemorate his life and visit Ireland. 

Douglass travelled to Ireland and Britain in the 1840s, arriving in Ireland in 1845 at the cusp of the devastating Famine. In total, he spent two years travelling around this part of the world, and one of the cities he visited was Waterford, in October 1845.

A plaque to commemorate his visit to Cork was unveiled in 2012 at the Imperial Hotel.

Douglass later said that his visit to Ireland, and especially his meeting with fellow abolitionist Daniel O’Connell, helped to broaden his political position from campaigning for the end of slavery to campaigning for freedom for all, for equality and an end to poverty.

About the author:

Adam Daly

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