Council’s public art chief not for shifting statue of Luke Kelly

Despite recent episode of vandalism sculpture a ‘site specific work’, says Ruairí Ó Cuív

The Luke Kelly statue on guild Street, Dublin being cleaned after being defaced. Photograph:Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Luke Kelly statue on guild Street, Dublin being cleaned after being defaced. Photograph:Gareth Chaney/Collins


The sculpture of musician Luke Kelly in Dublin’s north docks is a “site specific work” and is integral to its waterside setting, public art manager with Dublin City council Ruairí Ó Cuív has said.

Mr Ó Cuív was speaking after the sculpture by artist Vera Klute, at the corner of Guild Street and Sheriff Street at the mouth of the Royal Canal, was vandalised this week. It was the fourth time the statue has been daubed with paint since it was installed in January of last year, close to the musician’s childhood home.

Some calls have been made to move the statue, a 2m high marble representation of Kelly’s head. The council this week said it was considering “all options” to protect the sculpture.

However, Mr Ó Cuív said moving it from its canal basin setting may not be the best option.

“Nothing is going to happen immediately as we are not going to be moving anything in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic,” he said. “Firstly we need to talk to the artist, and we need to talk to the Kelly family, but we also need to talk to the community of Guild Street and Sheriff Street. They are an immensely proud and very close people.”

The location for the sculpture was chosen for specific reasons, he said.

“This was the community where Luke was born and from the very beginning I was wholeheartedly in favour of locating the statue in this community. Better off parts of the city have plenty of statues, our ambition in the arts office is to bring culture right throughout the city.”

Klute had also specified that the work should be located along the canal, he said.

“The artist watched an enormous amount of video and the sculpture came from a particular moment when Luke is singing Scorn Not His Simplicity when he has his eyes closed. In this work she wanted to capture his inner passion, not just his physical appearance, though it is a remarkably accurate physical representation.”

A range of questions needed to be asked before contemplating the relocation of the statue he said.

“It was a site-specific work, to lift it and put it somewhere else would raise issues. What has to be asked is why is it happening? Who is doing this? Does other work get damaged in the city? The answer is yes.”

The vandalism of the statue of has been condemned by locals who say the perpetrator is not from the area.

Mark Fay, who runs a local shop, and whose father went to school with Kelly, said local people were “fuming” over the incident.

“People are very upset by what’s happened. The continuing vandalism to the statue is disgraceful. There is huge regard for the Kelly family here and it is not local children who are doing this. It is an adult individual who is not from here.”

Photographs and video had been taken of a man, understood to be in his late 30s with a distinctive limp, spraying paint on the statute on this, and previous occasions, said Mr Fay.

“The vandalism that happened the other night, happened during the lockdown when hardly anyone is on the street in an area covered by CCTV. It shouldn’t be too hard to locate this individual.”

Gardaí said they are appealing for information following “criminal damage to a statue at Guild Street”. No arrests have been made, but investigations are ongoing, and anyone with information is asked to contact Store Street Garda station on 01-6668000.

Locals fuming over problem

The local community had been celebrating Kelly and his connection to the area through an annual tribute concert for many years before the statue was erected, said Mr Fay said. But they were proud to have the statue in the area.

“The other victim in all this is the North Wall and Sheriff Street area. Give a dog a bad name and it sticks, but local people are fuming over this we like this statue and we like it where it is.”

Independent Cllr Nial Ring said he supported local people in their wish to keep the statue.

“There is huge opposition locally to moving it. There would be absolutely no appetite for moving it. We’ve had enough moving statues in this country.”