Public art theft is becoming an increasing concern for local arts officers following the removal of a unique sculpture at the M6 near Moate, Co. Westmeath. Stolen for its scrap value, the Grainne Og statue by Ann Meldon Hugh was taken on March 14 last giving rise to fears that a worrying trend of public art theft may occur in the midlands.
“So far there has been no theft in Longford,” said Fergus Kennedy, arts officer for County Longford. “We don’t want to give stupid people the idea to go out there and do this, but at the same time we need the public to be vigilant and aware.”
For Fergus, there is irony in the fact that the scrap metal value of the public art is worth only a fraction of the cost of the sculpture.
“Bronze, stainless steel and copper values are at an all time high. However, the punishment that these thieves face far outweighs the gain as the seriousness of the crime will be measured upon the value of the sculpture and not the scrap metal,” said the arts officer, who added gardai should be alerted if anyone is seen tampering with public art.
“It is unlikely that we would get the funding to secure more public art and these pieces add greatly to the visual amenity of their areas,” said Fergus. “Furthermore, they are often unique and beautiful pieces that simply cannot be replaced.”