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Debate rages over Púca of Ennistymon

WHILE plans for a landmark sculpture in Ennistymon have been paused, there has been no let-up in the debate over the proposed Púca.
In recent days, celebrities, artists, historians, folklorists and an MEP have weighed in, in support of Aidan Harte’s proposals for a 2metre high half-man, half-horse on Lower Church Hill.
Opposition to the bronze structure has also ramped up in recent days with an online petition under the heading of ‘The People of Ennistymon say NO to the Puca statue’.
As of Wednesday lunchtime, it had gathered 244 signatures and is set to be forwarded to Clare County Council by the end of the week.
Offers of alternative accommodation for the statue have come from all over Ireland, with folklorist Eddie Lenihan proposing that Crusheen might provide a suitable home.
“It may not be the púca as portrayed in Irish folk tradition, but it is a fine piece of sculpture nonetheless,” he said.
“Crusheen has grown enormously in recent years, but in houses only. Perhaps some public art might be appropriate, and very likely would be welcomed. There is a roundabout to place it on, and most appropriate of all – the same roundabout is in the townland of Caheraphuca.”
In another letter to The Champion, historian Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc was sharply critical of the “moral panic” contributed to by some community leaders in Ennistymon.
“Although a native of east Clare I spent a great deal of my childhood in the west of the county and it is there, sitting at the feet of my aged relatives, that I first heard tales of the Púca and all of the other wonderful characters who feature in Irish folklore,” wrote Dr Ó Ruairc.
“I am proud to have continued that tradition by sharing these stories with my own children who enjoy them as much as I did as a child. I hope that the “Púca of Ennistymon” sculpture will be erected, and I hope to take my children to see it when it is unveiled.”
Meanwhile professional storyteller and author, Steve Lally has noted that one of Ennistymon’s most famous literary figures, Brian Merriman, evoked the power of the púca in his poem The Midnight Court.
“We have to remember these stories predate the bible and even literature and we should be very proud to be the custodians of such ancient and powerful stories,” he said. “It is fitting that ‘The Pooka’ [sic] finds a home in Ennistymon, Clare, the same place where the great Brian Merriman hailed from and whose work brought to life ‘The Good Folk’, better known as ‘The Fairies’.
Others who have lent support on social media include comedian Dara O’Briain, who owns some sculpture pieces by Mr Harte; actor Chris O’Dowd and MEP Mick Wallace.
In a tweet, the Independent MEP commended Clare County for doing something different in terms of public art. “If Puca of Ennistymon was meant to bring extra attention to the town, it’s working,” he said. “You don’t always have to like a piece of art, it’s designed to stimulate thought – And it’s certainly doing that..”
Last week, the council decided to pause in the project in light of local opposition. It undertook to “review the submissions received and … engage in a listening process with the local community over the coming weeks”.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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