'We didn't even get to enjoy it': Witness appeal after Waterford sculpture destroyed in fire 

Fire crews unable to save the artwork, erected earlier this year as part of a biodiversity project
'We didn't even get to enjoy it': Witness appeal after Waterford sculpture destroyed in fire 

The sculpture is now a mound of ash with only the outstretched hand and feet remaining. Picture: Waterford Garda Station

Gardaí have launched an investigation after a large wooden sculpture featured on Waterford's Greenway route was destroyed in a fire.

They have appealed for help from the public after fire crews were unable to save the artwork.

The sculpture was erected earlier this year as a biodiversity project in tribute to an Irish mythological goddess called Éiriu. The centre of it — Éiriu's body — is now a mound of ash with only the sculpture's outstretched hand and feet remaining.

The fire service was called to the scene at Carriganore on the outskirts of the city early on Friday morning where the large wooden structure was in flames.

While the blaze was eventually extinguished, the sculpture was "destroyed", according to gardaí.

Gardaí are treating it as an incident of criminal damage and are appealing for any witnesses or anyone with information to come forward.

The sculpture is of 'Éiriu' and was carved by Special Branch Carvers' John Hayes, a master wood craftsman who has designed other works including the 23m sword lying in Waterford’s Viking Triangle.

It was installed in March of this year as part of a biodiversity project, in collaboration with South East Technological University.

The sculpture following the fire. Picture: Waterford Garda Station
The sculpture following the fire. Picture: Waterford Garda Station

Mr Hayes said he was heartened by the reaction of the public and would not let it deter him.

"It's just mad but I'm still here, I still have hands and it's just a case of figuring out how you can make this again.

"There's already lovely people ringing up offering machines and trees to do it and I think it just shows that people in general do want these things and do want to support them."

He added: "Personally I want to go make it right now and make another ten of them if I have to. I want to fix it but we'll have a meeting with the partners [in Waterford Council and South East Technological University] and see what we do from here."

He said the sculpture was a way to "tie together" biodiversity work by the university's researchers and "bring some fun" towards the topic for children, while it benefited from the "world class" talents of wood artists in England and Wales who helped him.

"Éiriu was the crowning piece for the whole project. She was the little jewel in the crown and we didn't even get to enjoy it — we didn't even do an unveiling."

He said the sculpture was a "five-tonne piece of wood" and would have required "intense heat" to ensure the fire burned through without failing.

The project was unveiled in March as part of a biodiversity project and was designed by master wood carver John Hayes, pictured here. Picture: Special Branch Carvers/Facebook
The project was unveiled in March as part of a biodiversity project and was designed by master wood carver John Hayes, pictured here. Picture: Special Branch Carvers/Facebook

"I thought I'd find a bit of a nose but there was nothing left," he said.

Mr Hayes added that he does not believe the attack was "anything personal" against him or what the work was aiming to achieve.

"There's obviously pain there for the people who've done the fire but this isn't the way it let it out. I'd say to them, come and work with me: we can make a big finger telling everyone to go away."

A Garda spokesman said: "Waterford Garda Station are looking for assistance in the investigation of the criminal damage to the wooden sculpture that was a feature on the Greenway at Carriganore, Waterford City. It has been destroyed by fire.

They added that the damage was discovered at around 7.30am on September 20.

Gardaí said if anyone in the area early on Friday morning noticed anything suspicious, they can contact Waterford Garda Station on 051-305300.

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