Controversial artwork prompts Athlone protests


An Athlone Town Council motion calling for the removal of an artwork from a contemporary art gallery in Co Westmeath will be referred to the gallery’s board of management.

The motion is being directed to the gallery, not as a request, but in order for management at the Luan Gallery to be consulted.

Scores of protesters attended a meeting of Athlone Town Council where the motion was up for debate yesterday evening.

Those gathered in the packed public gallery included the creator of the contentious piece, artist Shane Cullen, and son of murdered Defence Forces member David Kelly.

The artwork, Fragmens sur les Institutions Républicaines IV, is based on a collection of republican prisoners’ messages smuggled out of the H-Block prison in 1981.

Mr Kelly, a Westmeath native whose father Pte Patrick Kelly was killed by the IRA at Derrada Woods in Co Leitrim in 1983, came out to support the motion as he was “very disturbed” by the work.

“I viewed the piece myself and I find it deeply offensive. It basically glorifies terrorism that resulted in the deaths of Army men including my father and members of the gardaí and many innocent women and children,” he said.

“I’m just very appalled basically that school children are seeing writings by psychopaths and murderers.”

Cllr Mark Cooney (FG), whose father Paddy Cooney served as minister for justice in the 1970s, tabled the motion. He described the piece as “offensive”, a view also shared by his father.

Athlone Art and Heritage Ltd, a company established and owned by Athlone Town Council in order to manage the town’s art and heritage facilities, runs the Luan Gallery.

The contemporary art gallery was opened by Minister for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan in November.

Mr Cooney’s motion congratulated Athlone Art Heritage Ltd on the successful opening of the Luan Gallery and requested that the exhibit be removed claiming it is “offensive.”

He admitted it was a piece of art but said, “we have to have consideration for people in our community, for members of the Defence Forces, for the gardaí”.