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Sculptor Aidan Harte with a clay casting of his Púca statue.

Púca statue will not be placed in Ennistymon, Council decides

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CLARE County Council has announced that the controversial Púca statue commissioned for Ennistymon will not now be erected in the north Clare town.

The local authority issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon that following extensive consultation with elected members and the local community, it would not be proceeding with the proposal to erect the Púca artwork in Ennistymon.

Instead, the sculpture created by Aidan Harte is to be offered to other north Clare towns, villages and community-operated tourism sites. An expressions of interest process will be announced shortly by the council.

The statue had divided opinion in Ennistymon and around Clare and prompted the council to undertake a survey in November 2021 to garner local opinion on the artwork and its proposed location.

More than 720 survey responses were received by the local authority with 43.6% of respondents saying they ‘Really disliked’ the artwork compared to 34.3% who ‘Really liked’ it. While many disliked both the artwork itself and its proposed location in the town, a proportion of submissions were divided between the two.

At the time Mr Harte said, “It would be a shame if the Púca is decided on a binary ‘yes or no’ happy or sad face because that is a simplistic approach. It is no kind of art criticism. Imagine your favourite poem being put to that test? Would it have got published? Probably not.

“I would have preferred to talk to people face to face and bring the little Púca model down and people could see that it is not a monster that is going to come for them in their beds.”

“Unfortunately with an online vote I can’t think of a better way to empower a vocal minority. It is a very high hurdle now for the Púca to jump.

“Almost everyone agrees that art picked by committee or by a popular vote is not a good way to do it but that it where it has ended up. If you want inoffensive, crowd pleasing art, this is a way to get it if that is what you want.”

He added: “‘No’ is always a little bit louder than ‘yes’. I do appreciate that Clare County Council is in a difficult position because they need to represent the people and if a couple of loud voices have said no, they can’t ignore them.”

He said: “I do hope that the people in Ennistymon who do want it there, this is the time to speak. If they don’t now, it is the naysayers who will get the veto.”

The public art sculpture, which is inspired by Irish folklore and the locality’s equine heritage, was commissioned in early 2021 having been among 18 submissions received following the advertising of an artist’s brief.

The artwork forms part of a significant capital project investment to increase visitor dwell time in Ennistymon and further enhance the overall appearance of the town. Fáilte Ireland allocated €500,000 towards the now nearly completed capital project under the Destination Towns Programme, with the Local Authority providing an additional 25% match funding.

The Local Authority has proposed to relocate the art piece within the North Clare Electoral Area and that expressions of interest will shortly be invited from community groups with a link to tourism. Meanwhile, it has also been proposed that a new art piece for the Ennistymon project will be developed through a full public consultation process.

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