Controversial Púca statue will not be erected in Ennistymon

However, the sculpture is to be offered to other north Clare towns, villages and community-operated tourism sites
Controversial Púca statue will not be erected in Ennistymon

The Púca by Aidan Harte. The controversial sculpture is to be offered to other north Clare towns

Clare County Council is not to proceed with the installation of the €30,000 Púca of Ennistymon artwork in the north Clare town.

Instead, the controversial sculpture is to be offered to other north Clare towns, villages and community-operated tourism sites through an expressions of interest process to be announced shortly.

The u-turn follows a council commissioned online survey of local opinion which found that from the 720 responses, 43.6% of respondents said they ‘really disliked’ the artwork compared to 34.3% who ‘really liked’ it.

In May of last year, the project was paused after a local outcry including parish priest, Fr Willie Cummins, denouncing the bronze two-metre-high Púca from the altar at Sunday mass.

Ennistymon based Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway said that he welcomed the decision to relocate the Púca, which is inspired by Irish folklore and the locality’s equine heritage.

He said: “It is the right decision. The Púca wasn’t acceptable to Ennistymon and to the residents of Ennistymon. When you are dealing with spirits that have a mythical connotation, you have to be very careful with people’s feelings and people do take umbrage.

“If something is divisive in a community, then it shouldn't happen. We need to be careful about the statutes that we erect.” 

'No hard feelings'

The creator of the Púca, Aidan Harte said that a Council official had phoned him earlier in the day to confirm that the Púca will not be proceeding in Ennistymon.

Mr Harte said that the Council official told him that the Púca in Ennistymon was untenable due to the threats of vandalism against it.

Mr Harte said that he was “disappointed” with the Council decision.

Mr Harte felt that the online survey approach to decide whether the Púca would proceed or not was a “nuts” way to decide the Púca’s fate in Ennistymon.

He said: “Once I heard about the poll, I thought ‘that’s it, it is doomed’. This was a gift to the opponents of the sculpture and fair play to them they have won the day.

“We live to fight another day and there are no hard feelings from me against the people who were set against it and I do hope they represent the feelings of the town otherwise it is a sad day.” 

Mr Harte – who was a public commission to create the statue for Ennistymon – added: “I am pretty confident that a good number of people who were against it would over time come to appreciate it if it was erected.” 

Mr Harte said that he will not proceed with any further work on the Púca until a fresh agreement is in place with the Council stating which alternative town or village it will be located in.

“It would be madness to proceed with the casting before knowing where it is going to go,” he said. 

Mr Harte said: “If the Council has blinked once, why wouldn’t they blink again?” 

Mr Harte stated that he was not confident that the Púca will find an alternative location in Clare after what has happened in Ennistymon.

He said that if another Clare community doesn’t want the Púca, he has solid offers for it from private individuals and also some institutions.

“I want it to go somewhere where it is loved. I love the sculpture. I have sweated blood and tears to get it this far.” 

Púca, which means spirit or ghost, is primarily a creature of Celtic folklore and was considered a bringer of both good and bad fortune and the Púca were said to be shape-changers, which could take the appearance of horses, cats or dogs.

Mr Harte dismissed going down the legal route to have the Púca erected in Ennistymon, saying: “Why would I do that? That would be petty and small-minded. I don't want to cause more controversy in Ennistymon.” 

Ennistymon will not lose out on a new piece of artwork with a Council statement confirming that a new art piece for the Ennistymon project will be developed through a full public consultation process.

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