Michael McDowell: Free the Shelbourne Four from ‘woke’ activism

Let’s get one thing straight – the banished statues do not depict slavery in any way

An empty plinth: “Now that it has been conclusively established that the statues are not slave-related at all, it seems only right that the ‘Shelbourne Four’ should be liberated from storage and allowed to resume their pedestals without wasting the courts’ time.” File photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

An empty plinth: “Now that it has been conclusively established that the statues are not slave-related at all, it seems only right that the ‘Shelbourne Four’ should be liberated from storage and allowed to resume their pedestals without wasting the courts’ time.” File photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

It might be tempting to regard the removal of the four statues from the front of the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin city as a silly season story of little consequence. But there are important issues at play here.

Let’s get one thing straight at the start. The statues do not depict slavery in any way. The figures are not manacled. They are not even servants. They are clothed in flowing gowns. They were commissioned in the mid-19th century from a catalogue of statuary published by a French bronze foundry which reproduced the sculpture of Mathirin Moreau. Kyle Leyden, an art historian, has traced their origins and the evidence is clear – there is no hint of slavery.

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