Irish Che Guevara stamp stokes controversy

Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick designed this Che Guevara stamp.
Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick designed this Che Guevara stamp. Photo credit: Reuters

The unlikely choice of Argentinian communist guerrilla leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara, hero of the Cuban revolution, as the face of the new 1-euro postage stamp in Ireland is stoking controversy on both sides of the Atlantic.

The traditionally Catholic country, which has never had a left-wing government, only established diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1999, 40 years after Guevara helped lead the Cuban revolution with Fidel Castro.

However Guevara's father, Ernesto Guevara Lynch, was a civil engineer of Irish descent - and the iconic red and black print of the long-haired Che known from t-shirts and posters around the world was produced by an Irish artist, Jim Fitzpatrick.

On this basis Ireland's postal service this week issued the new stamp featuring Fitzpatrick's image of Guevara to mark the 50th anniversary of his death.

The postal service described Guevara, killed by CIA-backed Bolivian soldiers in Bolivia in 1967, as "the quintessential left-wing revolutionary."

It said demand for the stamp has rivalled that of its two previously most popular releases, commemorating the sinking of the Titanic and Ireland's 1916 Rising against British rule.

But it was quickly reminded that Guevara remains for many a symbol of the violent abuses of Cuba's communist government, with one Irish senator describing Guevara as "a barbaric interrogator, jailer and executioner of hundreds of supposed 'class enemies'."