Our campaign to remove the Robert Peel statue is gathering profound momentum and we are pleased that a debate over Peel statues in Greater Manchester and beyond is taking place. However, it has come to our notice that there is deliberate misinformation being spread about Robert Peel Junior.
From 1809 onward, Robert Peel MP for Tamworth was motivated by anti-Irish and anti-Catholic hate. In Lord Liverpool’s ministry he was Chief Secretary for Ireland between 1812-18. He was intensely pro-Union and opposed Catholic Emancipation, he was so extreme that Daniel O’Connell labelled him “Orange Peel.” In Sir Robert Peel: An Historical Sketch his biographers describe his actions, not just his words: “Mr. Peel, then, in taking up the anti-Catholic policy, took up the practical one.” Another contemporary observer opined that “Peel…made a speech of little merit, but elegantly and clearly expressed, and so well delivered as to be applauded to excess. He now fills the important place of spokesman to the intolerant faction.” This is legacy of his own father, the bigoted High Tory Robert Peel Senior, who would pay reactionary mobs to riot and destroy the homes of religious minorities, abolitionists, radicals and those who stood up to hated. They are the vandals, not us.
There are countless other examples of his bigoted statements in Hansard. The same intolerance today is embodied by these monuments of racist iconography. This bigot wrote the Tamworth Manifesto and founded the modern Conservative Party — this alone says it all.
The brutal Irish Famine of 1845 to 1852 resulted in around one million Irish people dying from starvation, typhus and other famine-related diseases and two million more emigrated from the country. This accounted for a population loss of around 20-25% In Irish this genocide was known as An Drochshaol which is translated as the “hard times” and “the bad life.” This occurred during the premiership of Sir Robert Peel (1841-1846) Thomas Carlyle, the rabidly anti-black racist, suggested in his Latter-day Pamphlets (1850) that Sir Robert Peel could be a “political hero” in the mould of Oliver Cromwell. Indeed. According to John Morrow in ‘The Paradox of Peel as Carlylean Hero,’ Carlyle sent Peel a copy of his edition of Cromwell’s letters and speeches in 1845. Is it a coincidence that the genocide started the same year? We are not ignorant.
Young Ireland leader John Mitchell stated that “God sent the potato blight but the English created the Famine.” It was Robert Peel who imported £100,000 worth of Indian corn from the United States to Ireland following the first potato blight in 1845 for the sole reason of stabilising foot prices, rather than to feed the suffering Irish. This hateful individual was solely concerned with his Free Trade ideology. Free Trade which benefited his own COTTON interest.
Peel attempted to pacify Ireland with the Maynooth Grant and other similar attempts to fig-leaf his hatred. His “support for the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829 is just one example. An Act for the Relief of His Majesty’s Roman Catholic Subjects. … Peel now concluded: “though emancipation was a great danger, civil strife was a greater danger.” Fearing a revolution in Ireland, Peel drew up the Catholic Relief Bill and guided it through the House of Commons. Self-interest dictated this man’s behaviour.
He himself PROPOSED the Coercive Acts Bill to Parliament on 15th May 1846 to further repress the Irish people, even after the famine, though blocked by a filibustering politician — so yes this is the right Robert Peel we are talking about.
We must fight ALL forms of hate and discrimination. We must be actively anti-racist. We must fight to defund the police, reinvest money in communities that themselves have been defunded for decades. We must fight for free broadband access, a green new deal, free laptops for children.
We call on Mayor Andy Burnham and all our councillors and MPs to remove these monuments IMMEDIATELY to hate and allow our region to face up to its history and help us heal.