Tuesday, 5 July 2011

France: bitter opposition to naming a school after Simone Veil

Simone Veil in person intervened to ask the municipality of Mennecy to abandon its project. The Mayor (UMP, conservative), Jean-Philippe Dugoin, gave in to pressure and the name of the Myrtilles school will not change into Myrtilles-Simone-Weil.

The proposal was opposed by a staggering 92% of parents and neighbours and caused a bitter three-week row.

The move had been thought to be consensual because Mrs. Veil enjoys great respect and popularity, she was elected the favourite woman by the French in 2010.

Simone Veil, aged 82,  is a French lawyer and politician who served as Minister of Health under Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, President of the European Parliament and member of the Constitutional Council of France.  She is a survivor from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp where she lost part of her family, she is the Honorary President of the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah.  She was elected to the Académie française in 2008. 

The Town Hall received e-mails with violent anti-Semitic content and some attacking the law legalizing abortion (her hardest political fight, and the one for which she is best-known). The Mayor Jean-Philippe Dugoin spoke of a "disgusting controversy with anti-Semitic connotations". 

Reacting to the controversy, Mrs. Veil who had welcomed the idea, wrote to ask for the plan to add her name to be dropped.

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