Lord Mayor of Cork, Joe Kavanagh, has said a remark he made suggesting that all lives matter while introducing an event commemorating the anti-slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass were completely misinterpreted.Fine Gael councillor Joe Kavanagh was introducing an event organised by the Cork Migrant Centre in honour of Mr Douglass entitled ’18th Century to 21st Century Cork’ when he said that, in his opinion, all lives matter. It is understood the remarks were not scripted. A number of people attending the virtual online event expressed shock at the comment.
‘I think [the Lord Mayor’s] comments were coming from a good place,’ said Dr Naomi Masheti of Cork Migrant Centre. The event at Nano Nagle Place in Cork was part of #DouglassWeek, commemorating the pivotal four months that orator, writer, and abolitionist Frederick Douglass spent in Ireland in 18545.Picture: Clare Keogh
Mr Kavanagh was questioned about his remarks during a Q&A session afterwards, where he said: I dont make distinctions between one grouping and another.
Maybe I didnt make the point very well, he said. I meant absolutely nothing by it, it was just picked up incorrectly. 
There is a huge difference between what is going on in America, and what is going on in Cork, Mr Kavanagh said after a fellow panellist pointed out to him that all lives matter is an especially charged phrase in an American context, used almost solely to demean the Black Lives Matter movement.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Kavanagh said that he had been completely and utterly misinterpreted: 
I fully support Black Lives Matter. Im not supporting anyone who supports racism so, of course, I support Black Lives Matter.   
Dr Naomi Masheti, one of the Lord Mayor’s fellow panellists in the Douglass Week event, said: I think his comments were coming from a good place.
Dr Masheti, a programme coordinator with the Cork Migrant Centre, acknowledged that Mr Kavanaghs words had provoked a significant reaction from the audience: 
He was basically trying to say that ‘you are all citizens and I treat you all equally’. 
Actor and activist Paul Oakley Stovall, who played a starring role in the first US tour of  Hamilton, and was also involved in the online event, tried to calm the audience by suggesting that Mr Kavanaghs comments were meant to be supportive.
The Fine Gael press office declined to comment.
More details about Douglass Week are available on douglassincork.com. The weeklong commemoration continues until February 14.

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