The face of Guevara, who visited and stayed in Kilkee, West Clare, in 1961, was painted on the sea wall recently, having adorned the same spot for the previous two Che do Bheatha festivals.
Clare County Council staff removed the 6.1m-high mural early yesterday despite agreement having been reached at a Kilkee Town Council meeting on Monday night that it should remain until the festival was over.
This is the third year of the festival, established in 2011 to mark the 50th anniversary of Guevara’s visit to the town. His plane had been grounded at Shannon so his entourage spent a night in the resort.
The most renowned image of Guevara was created during that visit by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick after a chance meeting in the Marine Hotel bar.
The festival organisers were informed last week that the mural would have to be removed because a group of US tourists had left the town recently after seeing it.
Kilkee Chamber of Commerce President Johnny Redmond said: “Clare County Council has decided it is graffiti and has removed this harmless mural. This at a time when the council says it has no money to kill the weeds that are growing up through the footpath on the promenade but has time and funds to waste on removing an internationally recognised image in the year of the Gathering with Irish-Argentinians coming to Kilkee for the festival.”
“The festival is not political. It is a festival of Latin-American culture but once again Clare Co Council is shooting itself in the foot,” Mr Redmond added.
The council said the mural was removed as it was in breach of local government legislation.
Mayor of Kilkee Cllr Paddy Collins said: “There was much discussion about this and it was agreed in the end that the mural could stay but must not be altered and should be removed the day after the festival finishes.” “The mural has since been removed by Clare County Council and while I had hoped this was as a result of a breakdown in communication rather than the council being heavy-handed, now that it is gone, I would prefer not to see it replaced.” In a joint statement, Clare County Council said: “At Monday night’s monthly meeting of Kilkee Town Council, elected members unanimously agreed that the erection of the mural in question was in clear breach of S19 of the Litter Pollution Act 1997. Councillors proposed, however, that the mural be retained until after the upcoming festival. “This sentiment was relayed by the town clerk, who himself does not have the authority to enforce such a proposal, to the Planning Authority, ie Clare County Council. Clare County Council had scheduled the removal of the mural for Tuesday morning. This went ahead as scheduled as the mural in question was in breach of local government legislation.”