09 Dec 2021

Athlone gallery to keep Longford artist’s work on display

A piece of art devised by Longford artist Shane Cullen is to remain in place following a meeting of Athlone Arts and Heritage Ltd last night (Wednesday).

A piece of art devised by Longford artist Shane Cullen is to remain in place following a meeting of Athlone Arts and Heritage Ltd last night (Wednesday).

Members of its board held talks to discuss a motion for the removal of Mr Cullen’s ‘Fragmens sur le Institutions Republicaines IV’ from the town’s Luan Gallery.

That plea had earlier been made by Athlone Town Cllr Mark Cooney, son of former Fine Gael justice minister Paddy, on the grounds it was “offensive to so many people”.

As reported by the Leader in today’s (Wednesday) newspaper, the artwork, has so far managed to attract viewings from around 1,200 people with just three complaints being made.

Owned by the State, Mr Cullen’s creation shows messages written on cigarette papers that were smuggled out of the Maze Prison by republicans at the height of the 1981 Hunger Strike campaign.

Cllr Cooney had clamoured for their removal, a move which received the backing of party colleague Gabriel McFadden.

Speaking ahead of the anticipated board meeting last night, Mr Cullen said he was quietly optimistic delegates would look favourably on the controversy.

“I hope they do (reject the request),” said the son of the late Longford businessman Joe Cullen. “That exhibition was put together by a number of different works by a number of artists and for one to be removed would not just be an outrageous action of censorship, but it would also damage the idea and concept of the exhibition as a whole.”

In a statement, the board it was satisfied Mr Cullen’s work fitted in with its present day workings.

“The Board of Athlone Art and Heritage acknowledges the range of views recently expressed and is satisfied that the current programme titled ‘Borrowed Memories’ including the item “Fragmens sur le Institutions Républicaines IV” is within the strategy adopted for the Luan Gallery,” it said.

“The principals of artistic integrity and expression are fundamental to this strategy. It would not be the intention of the Board to direct the removal of any artwork from a public space which would deny visitors to the Gallery the opportunity for respectful, critical and reasoned enquiry and debate.”

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