Statues unveiled in centre of Belfast to 1916 Easter Rising rebel and an anti-slavery activist

​Two new statues have been unveiled at Belfast City Hall – one of an anti-slavery activist, another of a 1916 rebel.
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​The first is Mary Ann McCracken (1770 to 1866) and the second is is Winifred Carney (1887 to 1943).

Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of the city Ryan Murphy dubbed them both “two of the most notable and influential women in Belfast’s history” and would help create a “good and harmonious environment”.

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The statues are made of bronze and are located on the front lawn area of City Hall, either side of the statue which celebrates Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

Winifred Carney statue at Belfast City HallWinifred Carney statue at Belfast City Hall
Winifred Carney statue at Belfast City Hall

The city council describes McCracken as “an abolitionist, educator, social reformer and businesswoman who fought for the rights of many”, and Carney as a “suffragist, committed trade unionist and political activist”.

Born in Bangor of mixed Catholic-Protestant parentage, Carney had a key role in the 1916 uprising which resulted in the deaths of 485 people (54% civilians, 26% British Army, 16% rebels, and the rest police).

A New York Times profile describes her thus: “Armed with a typewriter and a Webley revolver, Ms Carney was aide-de-camp to James Connolly, a socialist leader, in the rebellion’s headquarters in the General Post Office.”

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She defied orders to stay with Connolly when he was wounded.

McCracken meanwhile was a Belfast Presbyterian who made a name helping the poor, and was the sister of United Irishman Henry Joy McCracken, who himself was the grandson of original News Letter owner Francis Joy.

The foundation which today bears her name describes her as “a life-long abolitionist, and an original member of the Belfast Ladies Anti-Slavery Association”.

It added: “In her late 80s, she could still be found handing out anti-slavery leaflets to emigrants bound for the United States.”

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Her motto, it says, was: “Better to wear out than to rust out.”

Lord Mayor Murphy said: “The installation of these statues marks another important step in the council implementing the recommendations of a 2012 report which focused on ensuring we created a ‘good and harmonious environment’ through our displays at City Hall and its grounds.

“These statues celebrate female achievement, inclusivity and the diversity of the people who helped shape our city.”