By David Raleigh
There have been calls for a billboard of a partially naked man suspended in the river Shannon to be removed given the recent drowning of two men in the river recently.
However, organisers of Limerick's bid for European Capital of Culture, Limerick 2020, have said that they will not be (purposefully) removing the poster, which some have deemed "insensitive".
The giant poster of the man suspended in the river in front of a shot of Thomond Bridge, under the headline ‘we are culture’, currently appears on a billboard on the Limerick to Ennis Road.
Some have called for its removal, given the recent tragic drownings of stone masons at Thomond Bridge, Limerick, on August 29 last.
A cable that was holding a platform cage in which Bryan Whelan, 29, from Bridgetown, Co Clare and TJ O'Herlihy, 36, from Castleisland, Co Kerry, were suspended in over the bridge, snapped sending the two men to their deaths in the river below.
TJ O'Herlihy and Bryan Whelan
Their bodies were found, by Limerick Marine Search and Rescue (LMSRS) and local fire service divers, submerged in the cage trapped in their life jackets, which inflated and were attached to the platform.
A third man Paul Murphy, 36, who was also in the cage, managed to free himself and was rescued by LMSRS.
A senior member of LMSRS said they were "appalled" and called for the poster to be removed immediately.
"It's way out of order," they said.
"Having a semi-naked man in the river is totally insensitive, because, that, unfortunately, is how we discover a lot of these poor lads who drown in the river."
"In the background of the poster is, Thomond Bridge. That's where those two lads tragically drowned two weeks ago," they added.
"It's totally insensitive and it should be taken down immediately," they said.
A spokesperson for the family of Bryan Whelan, said: "Besides TJ and Bryan, there are a lot of people that would have lost their lives in that river."
"The PR or marketing probably wasn't ideal," they added.
Well known Limerick-based auctioneer, Pat Kearney, who is a former neighbour of TJ O'Herlihy's family in Castleisland, said: "Nowadays, when you see the river in Limerick, suicide springs to mind."
"It was the wrong image to use at the wrong time," he said.
"I don't see any connection between the poster and culture," Mr Kearney added.
A spokesperson for Limerick 2020 said the image was designed by Piquant Media and released on August 24 last, four days prior to the death of Mr Whelan and Mr O'Herlihy.
However, while the poster will not be removed it will be replaced in the coming weeks with another in a series of five artistic images, a source said.
In a statement Limerick 2020 said: "The image in question is part of a series of images designed to promote support for the Limerick 2020 campaign #weareculture."
"This image, designed locally, predates the tragedy in the river.
"Feedback to the campaign, artistic in nature, has received many favourable responses and like all great images is designed to be imaginative.
"The image is designed to represent culture permeating the city, the heritage of the river and importance of the history of Limerick."