Public art murals would be exempt from planning under proposed law

Public Art Mural Bill would see exemption for artworks once permission given by building owner

Legislation that would create a new planning exemption for large public murals has been introduced to the Dáil on Thursday.

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin brought forward the Public Art Mural Bill, which was drafted alongside the artistic collective Subset. The group of artists are responsible for some of the most well-known murals across Dublin including the David Attenborough mural in Portobello.

The Bill would create a new planning exemption whereby, subject to the permission of the owner of a private building, alongside “reasonable conditions”, a mural would not require planning permission.

There are currently three main ways to execute public art in a public space – through a planning permission application, a community arts project, or on “legal walls”.


Mr Ó Broin said the reasonable conditions included that the public art was not a commercial or political advertisement, or a referendum campaign and was not in conflict with equality acts.

“We want to create a situation where high quality public artists can enhance the life of our city, its streetscape and the lives of us living in it and visiting it, we need to change the planning.

“I’m introducing a short piece of legislation that intends to create certainty and clarity for people who want to produce good quality public art on private buildings,” the Dublin Mid-West TD said.

Dublin City Council dropped a legal case against Subset last year, just days before proceedings were to begin in relation to three murals in the capital: the Horseboy mural in Dublin 7, the Think & Wonder mural on the side of Granthams Cafe in Dublin 8; and the Attenborough mural. There is due to be a hearing this month in relation to legal costs.

Mr Ó Broin said the legal case was happening against “a backdrop of the cultural life of our city being drained away by bad Government policy, the lack of affordable housing and by speculator led development”.

“You saw the protests around the Cobblestone pub, around Merchant’s Arch, you’ve heard of many of our young cultural practitioners being forced to leave the city or the country because they can’t afford to live here,” he said.

“The idea that we would add to that; legal prosecutions against people enhancing the streetscapes of our city really isn’t acceptable, and therefore it’s up to us as legislators, Government and Opposition to address this issue, change the law and collectively help people make Dublin a much better place.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times