Great affinity between Václav Havel and Dublin, says city’s lord mayor after unveiling of memorial

Havel’s Place in Dublin, photo: archive of Václav Havel Library

Dublin has become the first city in Europe, and only second in the world, to dedicate a memorial to the late Czech president Václav Havel. The monument entitled Havel’s Place was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisín Quinn, and former Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, on Tuesday. Mayor Quinn told Radio Prague it was an honour for his city to pay homage to the late human rights champion.

Havel’s Place in Dublin,  photo: archive of Václav Havel Library
“It was a lovely event. It was fantastic to mark international Human Rights Day with the unveiling of Havel’s Place, this lovely table and two chairs designed by Bořek Šípek. It’s a great honour for Dublin to become just the second city in the world with one of these chairs around a lime tree, the national tree of the Czech Republic.”

“There is great history and affinity between Dublin and Václav Havel. In 2003, Václav Havel received the inaugural Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award in Dublin, so it was a great honour for us to unveil the memorial today and to do it in the presence of many members of the Czech community who live in Ireland, and also visitors from the Czech Republic, in particular Karel Schwarzenberg, who was a political advisor and friend of Václav Havel.”

Why has your city decided to honour the late Czech president?

“The initial idea came from a friend of mine called Bill Shipsey who works very closely with Amnesty International. Bill was familiar with the work of Bořek Šípek, and mentioned to me there was this wonderful chair in Washington. So we agreed we would try and get one of these chairs for Dublin.

Václav Havel,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“I believe that Dublin is a city that is proud to honour and pay tribute to international figures who are brave, and show they are champions of freedom and democracy but also reach out to everyone in the community so that new democracies can be built on reconciliation.

“Also, Václav Havel was a famous writer and there are other links. One of our Nobel laureates, Samuel Beckett, in fact dedicated one of his plays, Catastrophe, to Václav Havel when he was in prison. So there are lots of these linkages, and I think it’s appropriate for Dublin to honour someone like Václav Havel.

“It was interesting that Karel Schwarzenberg said at the dedication today that he believed his friend would have been pleased with the honour, and would have felt we have picked an appropriate location for it, in a park besides St Patrick’s Cathedral.”

It is perhaps unusual to unveil a replica of a memorial that was already erected in another place – in October, Havel’s Place was unveiled in Washington DC. Why did Dublin choose to use the same design rather than something original?

“I suppose it’s really more about honouring Václav Havel with the idea that Bořek Šípek had in this particular design. In fact, Barcelona is next year going to unveil a similar design so I think there is something interesting about sticking to the same design in a way as it creates this continuous links.

Oisín Quinn,  photo: archive of Irish Labour Party
“The design is actually very lovely, it looks very well. It’s really the encapsulation of what Bořek Šípek thought was a tribute to Václav Havel because it enables two people to sit down almost together but not directly facing each other, so not really in conflict but close together, and around a circular table which is conducive to discussion and debate. So that’s the idea Bořek Šípek had and we were very happy to see it replicated in Dublin, because of its simplicity and the message it sends out.”