Councillor calls for removal of 'offensive' art installation


A Fine Gael councillor will call for the removal of a contemporary art installation from the new Luan Gallery in Athlone, Co Westmeath, today.

Cllr Mark Cooney, whose father Paddy Cooney was minister for justice during some of the darkest days of the Troubles in the 1970s, claims the installation is “offensive” and should be removed – a view shared by his father. Created by Longford-born artist Shane Cullen and titled Fragments sur les Institutions Républicaines IV, the artwork is based on a collection of Republican prisoners’ messages smuggled out of the H-Block prison in 1981.

Cllr Cooney has tabled a motion for the monthly meeting of Athlone Town Council this evening. He asks: “That this council in congratulating Athlone Art Heritage Ltd’s successful opening of the Luan Gallery and noting that art can be provocative and controversial, requests that the exhibit entitled Fragments sur les Institutions Républicaines IV be removed as it is offensive to so many people.”

Cllr Cooney was reluctant to discuss the merits of his motion. “I put the motion down for the council meeting and I feel it should be debated and articulated from there,” he explained.

Athlone Art Heritage Ltd was set up by the council to manage a number of heritage sites and facilities including the Luan Gallery.

As the company and buildings are owned by the local authority, Cllr Cooney believes the council has the power to remove the installation.

‘Marvellous’ facility

He described the Luan Gallery as a “marvellous” facility. “It is a great facility and it is great to have it in a rural provincial town,” he remarked.

A spokeswoman for Athlone Art Heritage Ltd said “we are aware that there is a motion on the agenda for Monday. We won’t really respond to it at the moment because we don’t have the details.”

She did not know whether the artist had been alerted to the upcoming motion. However, she said, Paddy Cooney attended the gallery’s opening and was vocal in his “unhappiness” with the work and “Shane Cullen was there and he witnessed that”.