Call to mark Mintoff's birthplace
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Call to mark Mintoff's birthplace

The first two houses in Irish Street were the childhood home of former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff. The house was divided into three abodes with the third door located on St Mark Street. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The first two houses in Irish Street were the childhood home of former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff. The house was divided into three abodes with the third door located on St Mark Street. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The childhood home of former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff will remain standing, contrary to concerns that it formed part of a block of abandoned buildings in Cospicua about to be demolished.

However, residents in the area want to go a step further and have the house marked, perhaps by a plaque, to signal that an important politician in Malta's history once lived there.

"Irrespective of whether people agree with Mintoff's past ways or not, the fact remains that he was an important part in our history and his home should be safeguarded," Cospicua mayor Joseph Scerri said.

The topic was raised in Parliament on Monday when Labour MP Chris Agius urged the authorities to protect the house where Mr Mintoff, now 93, was born on August 6, 1916.

Mr Agius was worried the house would be pulled down as part of a slum clearance project in the area.

A visit to the town yesterday revealed that Mr Mintoff's former residence is in no danger. Mr Agius was glad to hear this, adding he agreed there should be some form of commemorative mark.

The clearance project is planned for a block of sealed-off and abandoned buildings enclosed by St Mark, Irish, Hanover and St Helen streets.

Mr Mintoff's childhood house is in a neighbouring block in Irish Street corner with St Mark Street. It is the block opposite the house that will be demolished.

Some residents, especially the older generation, knew where Mr Mintoff's former home was and agreed it should be highlighted. Younger neighbours had no clue Mr Mintoff had ever lived there.

Mr Mintoff did not always live in the house because his family had moved to another house, close to St Helen's Gate, that has since been demolished.

The Irish Street house has been divided into three separate units. One of them is inhabited by Silvia Abela, who said she had been living there since she was a child.

"My mother always lived in the area," Ms Abela said, explaining that her mother, Carmena Silvio, had passed away about 20 years ago.

"I remember her telling me that, when she was a child, she used to play with Mintoff. His mother used to shout at him to study but he used to want to keep playing. Then he did really well in exams," Ms Abela recalled.

When he grew up, Mr Mintoff become an architect and is in fact often referred to as Il-Perit (the architect).

After entering politics, he became the leader of the Labour Party from 1949 to 1984 and Prime Minister between 1955 and 1958 and again from 1971 to 1984.

Labour returned to power in 1996 under the leadership of former leader Alfred Sant when Mr Mintoff was a backbencher. Disagreement between Mr Mintoff and Dr Sant escalated into the well-documented 1998 political crisis, which saw Labour lose a snap election called just 22 months after its landslide victory in 1996.

In 2008, Mr Mintoff was awarded the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights.

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