Call for audit of historical street furniture and artefacts in Cork

A councillor leading the hunt for Cork’s ‘lost’ fountain has called for a nationwide audit of historic street furniture and public artefacts.

Fianna Fáil city councillor Ken O’Flynn has written to three government ministers highlighting concerns about the safeguarding of such historic items after city officials admitted they have no inventory of them in the wake of the Dunscombe fountain mystery. He said the fact Cork City Council has no inventory of items of such importance is worrying.

“These items have significant heritage and cultural value and must be accounted for, recorded and located,” he said.

Mr O’Flynn raised concerns in May about the missing Dunscombe foundation, gifted to the people of Cork in the late 1800s.

While archives show it was in place by 1880 in an area known as Brown’s Square at the bottom of Shandon St — an area created following the demolition of several small houses and shops — further records show it was given to Cork Corporation in April 1883.

Historical records suggest the foundation was removed sometime before the 1980s and that another fountain was installed on Brown’s Square as part of the Cork 800 celebrations in 1985. That fountain was removed in 2003 ahead of the Shandon St renewal scheme.

Despite offering a €100 reward for information on the whereabouts of the Dunscombe Foundation, its location is still a mystery.

Mr O’Flynn said he was shocked when officials admitted there is no list.

They said they were happy to “give consideration to the initiation of a process to create the appropriate inventory” but it later emerged there is no funding, he said.

Mr O’Flynn has written to the Minister for Local Government, Eoghan Murphy, the Minister of Arts and Heritage, Heather Humphreys, and the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, to highlight his concerns.

He told them that since he raised the issue, he has been contacted by members of historical societies who have expressed “deep concern” about the state’s attitude to such items.

He has asked MrMurphy and Ms Humphreys to examine how other local authorities are cataloguing such items — many of which pre-date the foundation of the state.

And he said they should liaise with the Department of Finance given that it funds public art schemes under the Per Cent for Art scheme.

“I believe local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that all art, sculptures, statues, and street furniture in the public realm are recorded and checked on a regular basis to ensure they are in the location they were placed by council staff,” said Mr O’Flynn.

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