‘Extreme sadness’ among Poles in Ireland at Gdansk mayor’s death

‘There is no doubt that there is a high level of political polarisation in Poland’

 Candles in front of the City Hall in Gdansk, Poland  where people paid homage to the deceased mayor of the city, Pawel Adamowicz.. Photograph: Adam Warzawa/EPA

Candles in front of the City Hall in Gdansk, Poland where people paid homage to the deceased mayor of the city, Pawel Adamowicz.. Photograph: Adam Warzawa/EPA

 

Members of the Irish Polish community have expressed their “shock and extreme sadness” at the murder of the mayor of Gdansk Pawel Adamowicz last weekend but share mixed views about whether the killing was a result of the country’s polarised political climate.

Mr Adamowicz, who was mayor of the city for 20 years, was stabbed in the chest in front of thousands of people during a charity event and later died in hospital.

There are fears that the murder could heighten divisions in an already febrile political environment in Poland with some opposition politicians saying that the mayor was killed as a result of his liberal political views.

Members of the Irish Polish community have expressed mixed opinions about the murder.

Barnaba Dorda, chairperson of Forum Polonia, a Polish-led group that brings together various community organisations in Ireland, said: “We don’t know what the motives were yet, it still has to be properly investigated. But there are some questions about why he chose that event and that person.”

“There is no doubt that there is a high level of political polarisation in Poland,” he added.

Voyteck Bialek, the chief executive of the Together-Razem Centre, a Polish charity based in Cork, agreed that “Poland is divided and is getting even worse in terms of hate speech”.

Mr Bialek said he does not think that the killing was a “political murder” because the “the guy who committed it had a mental health issue”. However, he also said that “hate speech and the toxic political debate” contributed to the killing.

Other members of the Irish Polish community said they do not blame the current political climate for Mr Adamowicz’s death.

“It was an accident. It was carried out by a crazy person that had mental problems. So it’s a tragic accident that could happen anywhere at any time. We don’t have to [blame it] on politics if there was a mental issue,” said Krzysztof Kiedrowski, a committee member of the Irish Polish Society.

He added: “The situation in Poland is improving and we are happy with that. It doesn’t matter which party is in power, we are just happy that Poland is becoming a stronger and more beautiful country.”

Mr Kiedrowski also stressed that the Irish Polish Society does not take political stances because the organisation has members from “both sides” of the political divide.

Stanislaw Hajkowski, a rector at St Audeon’s Church in Dublin and the coordinator of Polish chaplains in Ireland, said: “The political climate, from what I’ve heard, exaggerates the situation. The man was mentally disturbed and the security and organisers didn’t take precautions.”

“It happens everywhere and it is very unfortunate. If you listen to politicians they try to take advantage of every situation,” he said.

Thousands of people took part in marches across Poland on Tuesday to pay tribute to Mr Adamowicz.

A 27-year-old man, with previous criminal convictions, has been arrested over the murder.

At least three other people have been arrested in Poland this week after calling for more killings in the wake of Mr Adamowicz’s death.