Repeal mural will ‘no doubt’ go up on private wall space, says Taoiseach
However, Varadkar says murals and posters will not convince people to change minds
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil he has “no doubt” the Repeal mural that was painted over on the walls of the Project Arts Centre in Dublin will re-appear on a private building elsewhere.
Mr Varadkar also said he believed the Charities Regulator which issued the instruction to remove the mural by street artist Maser, would have issued a similar instruction had the painting favoured the No side in the abortion referendum debate.
The Taoiseach told Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger that “perhaps somebody who owns a private building may wish to make space available for the mural to be re-instated.
“And perhaps even the fact that it has been removed meant that more people saw it who might not otherwise have seen it.”
Mr Varadkar also said to his Dublin West constituency colleague that “while you can paint over a mural you certainly can’t paint over an issue”.
“The issue is that nine women every day in Ireland are forced to travel overseas to end their pregnancies and three women in Ireland every day – which is only going to rise in the future – are importing pills online and taking them without medical supervision and guidance.”
He said “what we’re putting to the people on May 25th is an opportunity to stop turning a blind eye, to stop turning a cold shoulder and to face up to the reality of abortion in Ireland and to change our constitution to provide women those services in our own country”.
The Project Arts Centre, which is registered as a charity and receives State funding, was instructed by the charities regulator to remove the poster on the grounds that it constituted political activity which was in breach of charities legislation.
Ms Coppinger sharply criticised the charities regulator for objecting to the poster, saying the decision “was a subjective one by the CEO himself, someone who also has a long connection himself with the Catholic church and writing Catholic texts”.
The Solidarity TD and her party colleague Paul Murphy briefly held up a poster of the mural which showed a heart-shape painted in red on a blue background which the message “Repeal the 8th” but Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher warned her she was in breach of standing orders.
She said it was an orchestrated attack and all the complaints were lodged on the one day to the regulator. “Or are we back to the old days of de Valera when the arts had to keep to the holiest traditions.”
The director of the Project Arts Centre had to physically paint over the work of a respect and innovative artist or face financial ruin.
She said it was a “remarkable double standard whereby the Catholic church is an active agent in the referendum yet religious bodies don’t have to register with Sipo (Standards in Public Office commission) like secular groups do”.
Ms Coppinger added to some heckling, that “many religious organisations are also listed in the register of charities, published by the regulator but it seems they’re perfectly free to use their buildings to propagate an anti-repeal position”.
She said the irony was the proliferation of No posters which are offensive and upsetting. “They demonise women and make them invisible. They’re also blatantly scientifically inaccurate. Nobody is advocating they be removed although it would be good if the Referendum Commission challenged on a factual basis claims on both sides.”
The Taoiseach stressed the charities regulator made the decision and not the Government.
“I assume the charities regulator would have taken the same attitude or the same approach had it been a pro-life or an anti-abortion mural.”
And he emphasised that “the authority is independent in carrying out its function and in making any decisions in relation to taking enforcement matters”.
He said he did not find the mural in any way offensive but he did not think it was murals or posters that were going to change people’s minds or convince them. What was needed was independent and proper information such as that from the Referendum Commission.
He said “those of us who wish to advocate change should be going out and talking to people one-to-one, not berating them, not preaching to them, just listening to their concerns and answering their questions”.