Swift reaction to Cowen portraits


Madam, – If I find there is an intruder sneaking around my home in the middle of the night, should I dial 999 and tell the operator that someone is attempting to nail a painting to my wall without permission? Because that seems to be a very effective way of getting the gardaí to respond quickly. I certainly won’t tell them that there’s a gang of bankers in the kitchen rummaging through my wallet. – Yours, etc,


Sandymount Road,


Dublin 4.

Madam, – I am baffled by the reaction of the Taoiseach’s office to a news report on RTÉ, as well as the broadcaster’s subsequent removal of the report from online archives, and its apology, but I’m also curious about the knock-on effect. The paintings in the original report were caricatures, the intent apparently nothing more than satire. Does this mean that Martyn Turner will also be expected to apologise for any cartoons of his that could have caused offence to the office of the taoiseach or distress to his wife/family/friends? As a newspaper that publishes Turner, that has reported on “picturegate”, even reproducing one of the paintings (March 25th), will The Irish Timesnow be expected to issue an apology for doing what RTÉ did – ie reporting the news?

Satire does not equal defamation. A caricature (or two) is not an assault on a person or on an office.

There seems to have been no consideration given to how the lack of understanding of those two basic points (and the subsequent waste of Garda time) could serve to damage the image, reputation and indeed the office of taoiseach far more than a couple of caricatures donated Banksy-style to art galleries. – Yours etc,


Crosthwaite Park West,

Dun Laoghaire,

Co Dublin

Madam, – Warren Buffett famously commented that it’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who has been swimming naked. Perhaps Conor Casby’s portraits of Brian Cowen should be viewed as an insightful and legitimate political comment rather than a somewhat juvenile practical joke. – Yours, etc,



Howth Castle,


Madam — The unfolding story of Cowen-Gate is an almost perfect parable of the life and abilities of this Government and Fianna Fáil.

With our economy in tatters, our education and health care systems decimated, more people unemployed than ever before, and cronyism and corruption rife in Irish life, it takes two satirical portraits of Brian Cowen in the nip and the ridiculous attempts to censor the coverage of them, for people to finally realise that the emperor has no clothes.

Sad to say, it seems that we are living in a banana republic without either the good weather or the bi-annual excitement of a change of government. – Yours etc,


Leinster Place,


Dublin 6.

Madam, – At a time when the news is full of people who are unwilling to act on principle, who abuse the public trust, lack creativity and show a woeful lack of leadership, I would like to raise a glass in honour of the artist who bravely, courageously, ingeniously and fearlessly put a caricature of the Taoiseach executed with great skill and humour in the National Gallery of Ireland. Sláinte! I salute you. – Yours, etc,


Willow Grove,

Kill Avenue,

Dun Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Madam, – Shame on you that you saw fit to publish the grossly offensive caricature of the Taoiseach in Wednesday’s edition of your paper.

Your action is unworthy of The Irish Timesand serves to demean all of us. – Yours, etc,


Professor Emeritus,

NUI, Galway.

Madam, – RTÉ’s apology for the news story it ran on now infamous portraits of a naked Brian Cowen was ridiculous. For me, like many others I’m sure, the issue of the paintings was a hilarious, lighthearted, and very welcome satire in what has been a very negative time.

What I find most disturbing, however, is that despite the hundreds of letters, articles, and opinion pieces on the Government’s general mismanagement of the country, the issue of naked paintings is the one that the Taoiseach’s office decides to pay attention to. – Yours, etc,


Walsh Road,


Dublin 9.

Madam, – I was both amused and disappointed to see RTÉ having to make an apology to the Taoiseach regarding the nude portraits that were hung in two Dublin galleries. More disappointing is that the valuable time of the Garda Síochána is being wasted investigating this matter.

If the Taoiseach had any sense (of humour), rather than making a complaint about the portraits, he’d have made an offer for them. Who knows, it might have started a bidding war, the proceeds of which could have helped the public finances. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 13.

Madam, – Am I alone in being concerned that scarce Garda resources should be used to investigate one of the best pieces of political satire to be enacted for many a long year? Ireland is a western democracy with a free press. This is not Zimbabwe! – Yours, etc,


Shanganagh Road,


Co Dublin.

Madam, – A case of the emperor’s new clothes? What is wrong with Brian Cowen? The country is in economic ruin which he, as former minister for finance, is partly accountable for. People are losing their jobs and families are in real distress. And he gets upset about a painting? This scandalous reaction involving action by the gardaí is simply unbelievable. There are suspected murderers walking the streets, yet they question an artist? – Yours, etc,


Viking Harbour,

Ushers Island,

Dublin 8.