Covid keeps statues unsociably distanced
BORDER Fresh commitment to get vandalised peace sculpture re-erected
The pressure Covid-19 has placed on council coffers has caused navoidable delays in reinstating several of the county's most iconic works of art.
However, there is now fresh commitment to getting at least one back, it emerged at a recent meeting of Cavan Belturbet Municipal District.
The 'Hands of Peace', formerly located at Market Square in Cavan Town, and the 'Peace for All' sculpture at Aghalane near Belturbet, have been visibly missing from the county landscape since placed in storage for safe keeping.
The 'Arch of Peace', also known as the 'big hands' locally, was designed by German-born Irish sculptor Imogen Stuart and stood in the town centre from the early 1990s up until it was moved as part of refurbishment in 2017.
It was subsequently decided to relocate the hands to the former Tullymongan House site at the junction of the Dublin Road and Owen Roe Terrace facing Tractamotors. Work at the site was completed in May 2018, but the Travertine stone monument was never reinstated.
The ‘Peace for All’ sculpture by Kildare artist Derek A Fitzsimons meanwhile was the subject of a daring attempted theft back in 2016. Depicting a warrior embracing ‘Mother Ireland’, the bronze statue was torn from its marble plinth. Those involved were forced to abandon their botched robbery after the weight of the sculpture crushed the axles of their trailer.
Central to the delay in returning the statue to the same site overlooking the Woodford River was security that such an occurrence may happen again.
Aghalane bridge was blown up in 1972 during the height of the conflict by loyalist paramilitaries, but re-built in 1999. Mr Fitzsimons’ statue was unveiled by Lord Dubs and Minister Noel Dempsey in 1998.
The statue was re-erected briefly resurrected in 2018 for the visit of one of the chief architects of the Good Friday Agreement, former US Senator George Mitchell, who toured the region as part of the twentieth commemorations of the peace deal.
Both sculptures were due to be reinstated by the third quarter of 2020, subject to funding and resources.
However, a spokesperson for the council accepted, following the hit to finances caused by Covid, that the re-installation had been “unavoidably delayed”.
“The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting period of lockdown have placed increased pressure on council resources,” a local authority spokesperson informed The Anglo-Celt last year. “The re-installation of the 'Peace for All' sculpture at Aghalane, and the relocation of the 'Hands of Peace' sculpture, formerly located at Market Square Cavan, have been unavoidably delayed as a result.”
A move to now explore avenues for funding to have the ‘Peace for All’ sculpture reinstated at least was welcomed by chair of the Cavan Belturbet Municipal District, Independent Cllr Brendan Fay.
“Everyone would like to see the statue put back in place at the George Mitchell Bridge at Aghalane – it is a symbol of peace,” he told the last week's virtually-held meeting.
Cllr Fay described the sculpture as an “important landmark”, adding it was paramount to ensure it will not be easily vandalised again. He stated that people were telling him peace was “hard won”, and such a symbol needed to be restored to its “rightful place”.
Fianna Fáil's John Paul Feeley said he raised the matter at a previous county council meeting and at that stage two options were on the table.
“One was to put it back as it was and put proper structures around it, to make it more difficult for people to get vehicles in near it to do damage to it. That would be the preferable solution,” he explained.
“There was also the option of putting it somewhere else where it would be safe and put a replica back at that location close to the bridge”.
Party colleague Sean Smith said it was “important to remember” what the sculpture stood for at that location, while
Fine Gael's Peter McVitty said the figure costed for restoration in the past was “not massive”, but he too suggested it should only be done if it could be “put back securely”.
“We did put it back on site, on the occasion that Senator George Mitchell visited Aghalane and it was taken away afterwards. We should look seriously at its restoration on this occasion – important to remember that it is a symbol of peace”.
Cllrs Patricia Walsh (FF) and Madeleine Argue (FG) also supported the motion.
Senior engineer for the area, Paul Mulligan thanked the elected members for their input.
He suggested taking the “bull by the horns” as a municipal district by proceeding with an agreed option and to seek funding for that work to happen.
“Whatever we come up with in the final analysis needs to be secure as it possibly can be. I don’t know if there is a 100% solution to anything in life, but we do need to ensure whatever is spent on this project, is well spent. I will do everything I can to see it through to finalisation,” said Mr Mulligan.