Controversial seaside bear to be unveiled in Greystones

Some locals complain that sculpture is inappropriate

Passing the bronze teddy-bear sculpture by Patrick O’Reilly, which was commissioned in memory of  Caroline Dwyer-Hickey and now stands at the seafront at Greystones, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Passing the bronze teddy-bear sculpture by Patrick O’Reilly, which was commissioned in memory of Caroline Dwyer-Hickey and now stands at the seafront at Greystones, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 01:01

A statue of a giant bear with a sand bucket and spade, outsized feet and a fierce countenance is to be unveiled today on the promenade in Greystones, Co Wicklow. The bear, one of a series of giant bears crafted by Irish sculptor Patrick O’Reilly is about 8ft tall (2.4 metres). It is on the seafront at Marine Road, an area of architectural conservation, and its striding legs give the impression that it is in a hurry to get to the beach.

The bear is similar to others in a series that have appeared in Dublin in recent years. A “Going into Town” bear was positioned for some time at the top of Grafton Street.

The Greystones bear was donated to Greystones Tidy Towns Committee by local property developer and guardian of the National Gallery of Ireland, Dermod Dwyer. Mr Dwyer donated the bear in memory of his daughter, Caroline Dwyer Hickey, a teacher at the local St Brigid’s school, who died last year. The Caroline Foundation set up by Mr Dwyer raises money for cancer research at St Vincent’s hospital.

Members of the town council and tidy towns committee will gather this morning to officially unveil the bear.

However, some local residents have complained that the sculpture is inappropriate in an area of protected architecture and sweeping marine views.

Commentators have been particularly busy on the “Greystones News and Views” page on Facebook. One said that while “the sculpture at first glance appears like a friendly teddy bear . . . upon closer inspection, however, its ambiguous head and mean determined expression gives it a rather sinister look. Marching fast with its outsized feet it cuts a swastika like shape against the sky”.

Colum Ó Broin of Greystones Tidy Towns said the point of the bear was that it was a “fun sculpture”. He said the donation was “an incredibly generous contribution to the coastal amenity of our town both in terms of a visual treat and also in terms of its appeal to the human spirit”. He added that the “marching, purposefully determined bear, echoes the ebb and flow of the neighbouring sea by lifting the lowest of emotions and planting the warmest of feelings, firmly in the heart of those who are lucky enough the pass within its all-embracing shadow”.

Des O’Brien, director of services with Wicklow County Council, said planning permission was not required as the council was a party to the initiative. He said planning law provided an exemption, even in architectural conservation areas, when the council was involved and the structure cost less than €126,000.