Council focus on helping tourism industry restart
THE Púca of Ennistymon is likely to remain ‘on pause’ over the summer months, The Champion has learned.
Following significant local opposition, plans to erect the two-metre sculpture on Lower Church Hill, were temporarily shelved earlier this month.
In reply to a query from this newspaper, a spokesperson said, “It is likely that the status of this pause will be in place until at least the autumn because the priority at present is to support the local tourism industry with their reopening efforts, ahead of this summer season.”
The local authority also confirmed receipt of a petition of opposition. An online petition under the heading of ‘The People of Ennistymon say NO to the Puca statue’, gathered 263 signatures before it closed on Friday last.
Many signatories highlighted concerns over the lack of public consultation, and over the nature of the sculpture itself.
One comment said: “The statue has no relevance to the proud history or culture of Ennistymon”. Another said: “The Puca most certainly does not reflect the friendly nature of Ennistymon’s kind and caring community”.
A spokesperson for Clare County Council said the objections will be given “full consideration” in line with the public consultation process.
Despite the opposition, from sources including Parish Priest Fr Willie Cummins, the Púca – a half-man, half-horse – has also received huge support.
Some celebrities, historians and folklorists have voiced their approval, while alternative sites have been offered in several locations including Galway and Dublin.
It’s understood that an RTÉ radio show is also preparing to follow the Púca from the foundry, where it will be cast in bronze, to its installation.
“The Púca is a shapeshifter as you know and the story has completely changed since it went national,” sculptor Aidan Harte told The Champion.
“Clare Arts Office has been in constant communication; Púca-love has been flowing in over the last fortnight. I’m happy that it’s turned around because they have a thankless job, where it would be easy to always play safe.
“They picked the Púca over something generic that wouldn’t have caused a stir or filled the brief – which was and is to make Ennistymon a must-see stop on the Wild Atlantic Way.”
Mr Harte also reiterated his readiness to meet people in Ennistymon.
“If I’m invited, I’ll be there,” he said. “I’m happy to talk to anyone about anything.”
The Kilkenny native also said he wasn’t taking the opposition personally.
“Every sculptor I admire has been through this fire. Rodin’s contemporaries called one of his public sculptures a “sack of coals” and “shapeless grub” so Púca’s had it comparatively easy. My sculpture has always been marmite – so I certainly don’t take it personally if people think Púca’s odd. Sure, he is odd!”
The sculpture is part of a project aimed at increasing visitor dwell time. €500,000 has come from Fáilte Ireland under the Destination Towns Programme, for signage, pedestrian access and significant additional car parking, with 25% funding from the council.
A public artwork is included in the conditions set out under the programme. The council has confirmed that details of a review of the sculpture element will be publicised in due course.