THE backlash against plans to install a giant ‘Iron Ring’ sculpture at a castle has intensified.
More than 6,000 people have now signed an online petition opposing the Welsh Government proposal to install a £395,000 Iron Ring at Flint Castle as part of a £630,000 investment project.
Many feel the ring is a symbol of Welsh oppression dating back to the Middle Ages when Edward I conquered Wales between 1277 and 1283, leading to the oppression and subjugation of the Welsh people.
The scale of the backlash has attracted national media attention from the Daily Telegraph to the BBC while senior cultural figures in Wales have also expressed their feelings.
Welsh Bafta winning actor and film producer Jonny Owen took to Twitter to mockingly suggest ideas for other parts of Britain that would people would find just as offensive.
He said: ”Are they f***** serious? Coming next... a giant hammer for Scotland and a portrait of a diseased potato for Ireland.”
Academic Richard Wyn Jones joked: “English Heritage announce plan to build 50m high statue on Battle of Hastings site. ‘The Norman yoke’: an artistic celebration of servitude.”
Dave Healey, an historian and Flintshire county councillor for Caergwrle, said while he was supportive of Welsh Government funding, he could understand the backlash and has called for the plans to be dropped.
He said: “I’m opposed to the ring but I am fully supportive of the Welsh Government and what it does.
“It has done tremendous things for for Wales and the economy and their work is very laudable.
“But it has to drop the idea of this ring. It has caused offence on three grounds.
“Primarily it is offensive to the community of people who look at it from a historical perspective, the Iron Ring castles were imposed on the Welsh by Edward I to subjugate their people, and this ring is associated with that in their eyes.
“I’m very supportive of the idea of tourism but this idea lacks appreciation of Welsh history and money is being devoted to something people are finding offensive.
He added: “Then there is the issue of this particular £400,000 being spent during a period of severe and unprecedented austerity.
“From a Flintshire Council point of view, we are 19th in the table of per capita funding and having to seriously cut services like never before. We have a very serious problem, an £11.7 million funding gap.
“This comes across as a slap in the face and an affront to people feeling the brunt of austerity in this area.”
Flintshire Council’s leadership have also distanced themselves from the project and confirmed no money will be spent on it by the authority.
The controversey formed part of the debate on Jason Mohammad’s morning show on BBC Radio Wales, where Delyn MP David Hanson launched a robust defence of the plans. He said: “We just need to look at what it’s for. It is to put Flint Castle on the map in North Wales.
“We’ve got a string of castles built 800 years ago by Edward I, yes to invade and control Wales but they’re part of the history of North Wales.
“The purpose of the investment here is to put a new visitor centre in, it’s to refurbish the lifeboat station, it’s to put a new sculpture in to attract people to the town.
“It is to upgrade the social club, football club and rugby club and to tell the story of the castle which at the moment is not told.
“That will include the fact it was built by people to invade the country in the first place.”
He added: “Flint Castle is
under-utilised, people don’t go there, it’s at the back of an industrial estate.
“It is a hidden historic gem, not just built by Edward I, it is where kings have been deposed.
“We have been arguing for years to get something to generate interest in the castle.
“If a mistake has been made in this, it is the way that the people of the town have not been consulted about the final statue.
“We can’t hide the fact why it was built but it is like saying we shouldn’t go to Westminster, the House of Commons where I work, because it was built by Norman invaders.
“I, Hannah (Blythin, Delyn AM) and Ken Skates have been working to make this castle part of the town, to bring people into the town and increase investment.”
Mr Skates, the Welsh Government’s economy secretary who unveiled the plans last week, was unavailable for comment.