THE artist at the centre of the latest controversy about the painting of a Púca – half-man, half-horse – on a new mural in Ennistymon believes public consultation isn’t necessary.
Plans by Clare County Council to erect a two-metre sculpture of a Púca on Lower Church Hill, Ennistymon, were put on hold earlier this year following significant local opposition, which included an online petition.
Even though this statue also attracted significant support, a lot of opponents expressed concern about the lack of public consultation around the project.
The placing of a Púca image on a new mural on the side of Unglert’s Bakery just a short distance from Blake’s Corner in the centre of Ennistymon has reignited public debate about this controversial image.
However, Jonny O’Gorman, who hopes to fully complete the mural before Culture Night on September 21, believes public consultation is not necessary for a piece of art on private property.
Living directly opposite Unglert’s Bakery, Jonny has resided in Ennistymon since 2015, and in Clare since 2011.
Working as an artist part-time, he paints the interior and exterior of houses, does powerwashing and gardening all over the county.
In an interview with The Clare Champion, he stressed the new mural was on the cards long before the recent controversy about the Púca statue.
He believes his representation of the Púca is a “jovial trickster character and not the sinister version that some people were interpreting from the statute”.
“I am trying to express myself through pictures artistically rather than words. I was asked to do this mural. It is a work in progress. The Council can do what they want to do. I am an independent person and I will do what I think is the best thing to do.
“If there was public consultation, you would have 50% in favour and 50% against. The proof is in the pudding. The Púca is up now. There is a lot more wall space and there is a lot more to come,” he said.
“An artist doesn’t ask permission to paint something before he paints it. There was a mural there before.
“It is a great wall for a mural. Thousands of tourists come into the town every year.
“People can think what they want, it is done now, and is part of an overall image. It is not all about the Púca.
“I have no interest in the statue, it has nothing to do with me. What happens with the statute is of no material importance to me. Personally, I think it should be placed where people can appreciate it.”
Despite being commissioned by Stephan Unglert to paint the mural, Jonny said they hadn’t discussed payment yet.
Stephan Unglert of Unglert’s Bakery, Ennistymon, confirmed he asked Jonny O’Gorman to paint the mural of the Púca to see what it would look like on the wall.
He said Johnny hasn’t been paid yet, but pledged he would be paid.
Asked if it would have been better to conduct a public consultation process first before the mural was painted, Stephan recalled the reaction to the Púca statute was split evenly on a 50/50 basis supporting and against it, and noted a lot of opponents were against the proposed location and not the image.
He believes it is a good idea to paint the mural as it will give people a better idea of its scale and size when a decision is being made for locating the sculpture.
“Customers have said the mural looks great, but some people don’t like the Púca image. Overall, there has been a good reaction to the mural. People said it looks impressive.”
Asked if planning permission is required to paint a mural on a private building, Stefan said this is the third mural on this wall, and recalled planning permission has not been required for previous paintings over the past 15 years.
Responding to Clare Champion queries on the mural, a spokesperson for Clare County Council said, “The Planning Department is aware of the mural and is currently reviewing its planning status.”
Councillor Shane Talty confirmed he has received a mixed reaction to the mural, with some people disappointed that it has breathed new life into the previous debate.
“Some people would prefer if this mural didn’t appear. Whether it is appropriate to have a mural of a Púca on permanent display will have to be assessed in due course.
“The mural is a private action on private property and the local authority had no role in commissioning it.
“I am not aware whether a planning permission question arises in this case. Is a person free to paint what they want on a private property?
“A portion of the community thought the Púca was dead and buried and don’t want to see or hear about it. They are concerned to see it coming back to life again. Others thought it was a good idea at the time, and are happy to see it re-emerge.”
The Lahinch-based postmaster recalled the process concerning the statute was paused, with proposed consultation about what would be appropriate for Ennistymon over the coming months.
The Fianna Fáil Councillor said it was wrong to commission the statue without engaging in public consultation and felt it would have been better if the mural hadn’t gone up at the moment ahead of the public engagement for the sculpture.
“I think it is jumping the gun a bit to put the mural in place. It is very visible on the approach road from Ennis for anyone who is going to North Clare or the Cliffs of Moher. Whether that is a good or a bad thing depends on the viewer.
“Given the upset and divide that was caused initally, I don’t think it is helpful to have jumped to this stage without a community conversation.”
by Dan Danaher