Crisis meeting on Utøya memorial

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The Norwegian government called a crisis meeting on Thursday with  residents neighbouring the island of Utøya, where Anders Behring Breivik shot and killed 69 people on July 22, 2011. The residents have threatened court action to block a memorial selected for the island, arguing its plan to remove a slice of land is too visible for them to be able to move on.

Swedish artist Johan Dahlberg's design for a memorial to the terrorist attacks on the island of Utøya symbolizes a permanent scar on the landscape. PHOTO: KORO

Swedish artist Johan Dahlberg’s design for a memorial to the terrorist attacks on the island of Utøya symbolizes a permanent scar on the landscape. PHOTO: KORO

The Minister for Local Government and Modernization, Jan Tore Sanner, invited the Culture Minister Thorhild Widvey, the Utøya neighbours, their lawyer Harald Stabell, public art organization KORO and the state construction agency to the meeting on Thursday afternoon.

“It is encouraging that the government has called for such a meeting,” Stabell told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “It will be interesting to see what comes out of it.”

Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg’s design would cut a slice from Utøya, taking a piece of the island back to central Oslo. Residents describe it as a “rape of nature,” too conspicuous for those who had to look at it every day to forget and move on. “This is neither the Opera House nor Vigelands sculpture park,” said the neighbours’ spokesman Jørn Øverby. “I see Utøya almost every day, and memories from there will not disappear by magic. We must not create a wound, both in nature and our souls.”

“If you build a national memorial which lies a little more remotely, those who are interested could seek it out and see it anyway, and we who felt the tragedy in our bodies don’t need to see it every day,” Øverby went on. “That is important for us to take to the meeting.”

Sanner said it was totally natural for there to be many points of view on the design and placement of the July 22 memorial. “We therefore want dialogue with all parties and have invited them to meet to listen to those affected,” he said. “I have a great understanding that this is a case which arouses strong emotions. Now we will go well into the enquiries that have come in and look forward to good further dialogue.”

Plans over what to do with the government buildings in Oslo bombed as part of the attack are also slowly moving forward. A hearing was conducted earlier this month, where a majority advocated the preservation of the høyblokken precinct where a further eight people were killed. Breivik was also back in the headlines this week, claiming the 33 months he has spent in isolation is a further punishment on top of his prison sentence and an illegal violation of his rights.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate