Brexit glue tariffs delay production of Dublin sculpture for outside City Hall

Dublin artist Alan Phelan was last year commissioned by council to create work for O’Connell plinth

Production of a sculpture for the O’Connell plinth outside Dublin’s City Hall has been delayed due to Brexit-related difficulties sourcing the correct glue.

Dublin artist Alan Phelan was last year commissioned by Dublin City Council to create a sculpture for the granite plinth on Dame Street that once supported a statue of Daniel O'Connell. The plinth, while still inscribed with the name of the great Irish politician, has been vacant since the statue was moved inside City Hall 150 years ago.

Phelan won the €50,000 Sculpture Dublin commission for his piece called RGB Sconce, a 5m tall red, green and blue “sconce” – a type of candle holder –“referencing stucco plasterwork and Georgian architecture, and symbolising hope in the form of a torch or eternal flame,” the council said.

The sculpture was scheduled for completion in June 2021 the council added, but “challenges” were affecting the production timeline.


While some of these related to access to studio workshops during the Covid-19 Level 5 restrictions, according to the council "Brexit and the resulting additional costs of importing specialist conservation-standard glue from the artist's UK supplier" had represented a significant challenge to the timeline.

“I got trapped in a Brexit loop, a sort of logistical black hole,” Phelan said.

“I tried to order the glue as normal, and it is quite a large quantity I need, 50-70kg, and I discovered there would be a tariff, but I couldn’t find out what the tariff would be.

“I spent several weeks bouncing between different customs officials, trying to get an answer. Eventually it turned out it was going to add 30 per cent to the cost of the glue.”

Phelan said his glue budget for the work had been €500-€600, but Brexit related tariffs were going to push the cost above €1,000. “It’s not just any glue, it is super high-grade conservation-quality glue”.

It needs to be highly durable, weather-proof and colour-fast. Phelan is currently testing an Irish sourced product to see if it can offer a similar performance, and he is optimistic about the prospects of success.

“It will be about half the price, and I have a sneaking suspicion it’s all made in the same factory in Germany anyway.”

The council hopes the work could now be completed by August. Phelan said that is probably a realistic date. “I’m not aiming for a specific date. I just want to get it done.”

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times