Trade unionist and one of Gibraltar’s first City Councillors Agustin Huart was awarded the SDGG Award yesterday.
The posthumous award was collected by his great grandson Damian Conroy at a reception held in the Unite the Union headquarters in Town Range.
On receiving the award, Mr Conroy thanked the SDGG for making this posthumous award to his great grandfather, who he said “clearly deserves to be placed at the forefront of our recent history as a people”.
He said: “What has been unearthed is not only the role that Agustin Huart played but that of a group of Gibraltarians who gave much to our community during the interwar period and who planted the seeds of democracy of the model that we are now able to enjoy the fruits of.”
The award recognises people or organisations “who have contributed significantly to the emancipation and the political development of the Gibraltarians or to the democratisation of Gibraltar”.
The SDGG’s William Serfaty said it was Mr Huart’s work and what he achieved working with unions for 43 years “which started Gibraltar on the road to enfranchisement”.
In 1919, he travelled to London with a group of working men to demand the enfranchisement of Gibraltarians from the British Government.
However, Gibraltar as a “fortress was considered a special case, where self-government should never be allowed”.
As a result of public pressure led by unions and Mr Huart, the governor at the time dissolved the Sanitary Commission and formed the City Council in 1921.
There were four elected seats open to Gibraltarians, and Mr Huart was voted in as a City Councillor where he remained until the Second World War.
“This started Gibraltar on the road to our current self-government,” Mr Serfaty said.
“Greater representation, and involvement in legislation, would be agreed to if and when we showed we were capable of shouldering that responsibility.”
Mr Huart received recognition and was awarded an OBE and a Gold Medal of the Transport and General Workers’ Union in 1963, but Mr Serfaty said some of his descendants are “still aggrieved at an insufficient recognition”.
“Agustin Huart’s and some Trade Unions’ part in achieving the vote for us have indeed been forgotten and overwritten,” Mr Serfaty added.
“Enfranchisement in the current narrative has been presented to appear to start in 1945 with the repatriation, whereas the truth is that Gibraltar started on that path more than 30 years earlier in campaigns by Huart and his trade unionists.”
Victor Ochello, Unite’s Regional Officer, also received an award on behalf of the union.
Mr Ochello said: “Unite today, we are who we are today because of all the achievements Agustin Huart did then.”
He called for Bishop Fitzgerald School to be renamed by the government, after Bishop Fitzgerald was known to say that General Franco was a “godsend” during mass.
Mr Ochello told the Chronicle: “As a union, we feel very strong about the current political climate where we have an ultra-Right party Vox rising in popularity.”
“We have to avoid a repetition of history and the rise of fascism again, which goes against our first Gibraltarian leader.”
“Bishop Fitzgerald, the Church, the military and many members of our community were supportive of Franco’s regime.”
“We have been ignorant of our own history and we need to correct things even if it is 100 years later.”
“We need to follow in Agustin Huart’s footsteps.”
Pic by Johnny Bugeja