Council Affairs: Yipee-ki-yay Frida Kahlo

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

THERE was a time when councillors would start losing the run of themselves at this point into their council term, with the clock ticking down to election date and still not a Mickey Mouse statue or plaque to their name for the grandkids to fawn over.

Whether it was dedicating bridges to JFK, talking about tearing down Brown Thomas and replacing it with fountains, or a giant spinning top down the middle of O’Connell Street, these fine folk were always looking for some fad to put their name to before the gig was up.

You only have to look about the town at all the mad as a box of frogs effigies scattered about to realise we were dealing with real visionaries back in the day. Only the visions were of a psychedelic nature.

I mean, what did poor auld Dickie Harris and Terry Wogan ever do to deserve such miniature figurines? You’d swear they were two little fellas prone to sticking their heads into bees nests and smoking 100 Major a day with the way their tributes turned out.

Calling for statues, it seems, would draw too much attention to our fine council-folk these days, and that is something they want not one column inch of.  Best to blend into the background, that seems to be the current status quo. Say nothing controversial and just disappear into the banal drudgery of potholes politics.

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It really feels like the fight has been plucked right out of most of them. Like a bundle of neutered kittens jostling for a ball of yarn some of them are.

One wonders is this a directive from party HQs, nervous about causing a stir on the run up to ballot day.

So, sad to say, there will be no crackpot notions put forward in the council chamber of sculptures of John Kiely carrying the Limerick hurlers the length and breadth of the city – not even if they win five-in-a-row. And more’s the pity.

Bring back the John Gilligans, Jim Longs, and Kevin Kielys of the old guard, giants who could not be contained and always wore their hearts on their sleeve. I mean, c’mere to me, could ye not at least suggest a 50-foot Wicker Man-esque carving of JP McManus outside the Gaelic Grounds?

Last week at County Hall, the conversation turned to public art and was a far more muted affair than old dogs like me recall in the golden days. Sure, you could argue that this is a good thing, but it just doesn’t make for much joy on the sidelines.

The topic arose at the Community Leisure and Culture Strategic Policy Committee and there wasn’t a cross word or signs of raised blood pressure from any of them.

Councillors were informed on the day that a questionnaire, which formed part of a public consultation process, indicated that there was a “strong welcome” for public art in Limerick.

Yipee-ki-yay Frida Kahlo, what a rousing sentiment.

90 per cent of respondents, council members were told, strongly agreed that public art was important for creating a sense of place. 75 per cent would like to have more community engagement in the commissioning of public arts projects, and a further 75 per cent would like to see more “ambition” in the types of public art commissioned in Limerick.

Social Democrats councillor Elisa O’Donovan, in the interest of getting the ball rolling, was all for a statue of her good self if she could afford it, but wasn’t so keen on donations of public artwork.

Hitting out at the memorial bench erected to Limerick’s Finucane brothers, founding fathers of charity Concern, by Barrington’s Pier in 2022, Cllr O’Donovan said that “we have seen donated public art going in with no consultation and changing the structural integrity and landscape of our riverside”.

“A memorial was put in place at Barrington’s Pier and, when I looked into this, it was literally put up overnight and it was a memorial for two men, I think it was two priests who had been involved with GOAL.

“There had been no consultation before that. GOAL basically decided that they wanted to give this to Limerick and they also decided where it was going to be placed.”

She’s feckin’ right too! Except where she’s wrong about the brothers being associated with GOAL. But that aside, it’s a dog’s dinner they have made of the place with these ludicrous thingamijigs jumping out at you like Benny Hill buzzed up on yokes.

But no, back in her box she had to go, because you couldn’t be having a pop at this particular sculpture. No siree!

Labour councillor Conor Sheehan and Fine Gael councillor Olivia O’Sullivan, who will both be looking for votes on this side of the city in the locals, did not agree with Cllr O’Donovan’s comments.

Cllr O’Sullivan told the meeting that she did not share Cllr O’Donovan’s views, and added that “it was Concern and not GOAL” that the brothers were forming members of.

“They are from Shelbourne Road originally and have family members in Ashbrook. There’s huge local relevance to them and a lot of people in the locality have great affection for the public art that’s there,” she pointed out.

Won’t somebody please think of the children – who, for the record, also won’t be having a statue built for them.