Literary giants standing fast in face of scrap gang

While the pen may be mightier than the sword, an Irish literary giant has for the second time this year proven his mettle against robust attack.

A marauding scrap gang are suspected of trying to pull down a life-size brass statue of the acclaimed poet Michael Hartnett, erected in his native Newcastle West in Co Limerick.

The badly damaged statue, which was sculpted by West of Ireland artist Rory Breslin, was cordoned off yesterday and will have to be taken away for major repairs.

Last February, the same gang are suspected of trying to pull down the life-size bronze statue of John B Keane, which stands in the town’s Small Square.

Newcastle West Community Council commissioned the statue of Hartnett at a cost of €35,000. It was unveiled in Apr 2011 by poet Paul Durcan, a close friend of Hartnett’s.

Michael Finucane, chairman of the community council, said: “This has been very upsetting. Michael was a much-loved figure in Newcastle West, where many of his family still live. The damage was not caused by somebody who had come out of a pub and was up to devilment.

“It was attempted theft.

“Thankfully the statue is still there, but it will have to be taken down and taken to a foundry where a big job will have to be done and then have it re-erected.”

Two men who tried to pull down the statue of John B Keane late at night last February were armed with coils of wire, which they tied around the statue.

They took off in a van when a local resident went to investigate the unusual sounds caused by cutting equipment.

Gardaí believe the same gang were involved in both attempts to steal the statues of the Irish literary figures to have the metal smelted down and sold.


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