Athlone councillor: Defence Forces' members find artwork offensive08/01/2013 - 15:42:01
The councillor who tabled a motion in the chamber of Athlone Town Council requesting the removal of a piece of artwork from a gallery in the town has said that the piece is "offensive to those who served in the Defence Forces".
The question of whether the controversial art installation should be removed from Athlone's Luan Gallery was referred to the board of directors of the new facility last night.
Speaking today Cllr Mark Cooney defended his need to put forward the views of those who are offended by the content of the piece, referring to Westmeath's late Private Patrick Kelly who was murdered by the IRA in 1983.
Mr Cooney said: "There were a number of people here, including the family of Private Kelly, who oppose it. They find it very difficult to read what's on it in the context of what happened to their father.
"It is offensive to people like that who served in the Defence Forces, people who have lost family members through the activities by the organisation who are the authors of these messages.
"And there are people who are still wounded and maimed as a result."
Last night close to 100 people gathered in the chamber of the Town Council to hear a debate on the artwork which features hand painted words from fragments of letters smuggled by H-Block hunger strikers and IRA prisoners.
Fine Gael Cllr Mark Cooney tabled a motion describing the content of the piece offensive and requesting its removal.
However, Cllr Sheila Buckley-Beirne put forward an amendment to the motion to give the board of the Luan Gallery an opportunity to respond to the controversy, and it was passed.
But, Sinn Féin’s Paul Hogan rejected the amendment saying a clear message against censorship of any kind needed to be sent out from the council.
However, speaking after the meeting, Longford artist and creator of the piece Shane Cullen said he was shocked by the motion.
He said attempts to censor history are very ambitious.
Mr Cullen said: "Those writings that were written on cigarette papers and smuggled in and out during the second hunger strikes in 1981, when 10 republican prisoners went on hunger strike and subsequently died, that is a matter of historical significance and historical record.
"A lot of those small papers that were smuggled in and out of the prison are now in the collection of the national archives. They are artefacts, they give us an insight into history and I think the idea of censoring history is a highly ambitious one."
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