Do you want your old Molly washed down?
Dublin’s statue of Molly Malone is an ever-stoic victim of the impulse to spray-paint, tag and otherwise deface our surroundings
Dab hand: cleaning the graffiti off Molly Malone this week. Photograph: Eric Luke
It had to be the cleavage. It’s always the cleavage. You can bet that when they first pulled the sheet from Molly Malone, and unveiled her to the world, nobody’s eyes fell on the wheelbarrow first.
Since then the Dublin statue’s bosom must have been painted every shade under the Dulux colour chart, although variations on the tricolour have always seemed a particularly popular choice of patriotic vandals. During Euro 2012 she was so painted that she was only short of holding a Davy Keogh Says Hello flag.
This week the cleavage was red. (A witty take on “scarleh for her”? Not a chance.) She had been only a week at her temporary home outside the Discover Ireland tourist office on Suffolk Street when she was defaced. That time span was considered brief enough for it to make the news. (It seemed more newsworthy that she survived that long without having paint scrawled on her.)
So Molly will be cleaned down again. Vandalised again. Cleaned. Vandalised. And on it will go. Because Molly Malone stands as an ever-stoic victim of the impulse some people feel to spray-paint spaces, deface public art, tag statues, look at a piece of street furniture and wonder in just what way they can wreck it.
Vandalism isn’t inevitable. An early success of the Dublinbikes scheme was that its bicycles didn’t end up in the Liffey. Dubliners had steeled themselves for that, presumed half of them would be missing and the other half banjaxed before the first month was out. Instead the bikes became an epitome of civic pride and responsibility. Other cities learned from Dublin.
But the anticipation of vandalism had been understandable, because Ireland had a thick file on the subject.
Most obvious had been CowParade, in 2003, when 10 decorated model cattle were spread across the city, as had been done in cities across the world. Within a week every one had been vandalised. And not just with graffiti. One literally had its wings clipped. Another lost its head in an act that required serious hacking. “The awful thing is,” a spokeswoman said at the time, “we were kind of expecting it in Dublin.”
Not that it was particular to the capital. A week later a resin pig was taken from a floating sculpture in Galway. The city had previously seen Pádraic Ó Conaire’s beheading in Eyre Square. Drink had been taken, just as it was when Phil Lynott’s Dublin statue was damaged last year.