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Clare’s love of flowers to blossom

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Ennis’ reward for being Ireland’s Cleanest Town will see the installation of a new sculpture in the heart of the town.

Produced by Kilkee Forge, Bláth na hInse is a giant yellow iris which will reach 3.25m in height and will be unveiled in Abbey St car park in October of this year.

Ennis was named Ireland’s Cleanest Town in January 2018 by business group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) following a survey of towns across Ireland. IBAL has made €40,000 available to the winning town to mark the achievement by commissioning a permanent artwork. Elected members of the Ennis Municipal District unanimously approved the commissioning of the artwork at its July meeting.

Clare County Council’s Arts Office managed the commissioning process which had fifteen submissions, including proposals from Poland and Lebannon. A shortlist of three was then compiled for further development by the selection panel made up of Ennis MDC’s Tommy Scott, artist Ceara Conway, Ennis Tidy Towns’ Gary Lannigan and County Arts Officer Siobhán Mulcahy. They recommended the Kilkee Forge proposal which was also favoured by IBAL Chairman, Dr Tom Kavanagh for its impact and visibility.

County Arts Officer Siobhan Mulcahy explained that “The theme for the sculpture was left open. It was suggested that artists may take inspiration from the history, story and sense of place of Ennis with reference made to Ireland’s Friendliest Place, Purple Flag accreditation, National Tidy Towns Awards, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann and award winning festivals.”

Kilkee sculptors Paddy and Conor Murray are the brains behind the yellow Iris and outlined why they opted for this proposal, “This wildflower grows in lakes, ponds and along riverbanks, not only does our concept nod to the River Fergus, it also hints at the blossoming and blooming of Ennis from a business, community and cultural aspect.”

The stem of the Iris will be constructed from mild steel and will reach 3.25m in height. The Iris will have six petals constructed in stainless steel and mirror polished to create the coloured effect. Three steel benches will surround the Iris and QR codes will be located on each. The Iris will be illuminated by three static warm LED’s and will ‘grow’ out of a 2.5m flowerbed filled with wildflowers. Plaques / information will be incorporated into the design of the flower bed.

An aerial sketch of Bláth na hInse

Upon seeing a proposed sketch of the sculpture, the members of the Ennis MD were very positive. Cllr Mary Howard acknowledged that a lot of work had gone on in the background. “I’m delighted with them. Paddy and Conor are hugely talented. It’s very different from what I thought we’d go for”.

“It’s a beautiful piece of sculpture” commented Cllr Johnny Flynn. “Ennis must now have more public art than any area in the country”. He referenced their recent debate on flowers in the town adding “I hope it won’t be one of the flowers at risk”.

Independent councillor, Ann Norton said “it is absolutely amazing looking on paper”. She suggested that they contact RTÉ to use this sculpture in footage for the Angelus. Cllr Paul Murphy praised the work of the selection panel and sculptures and backed Cllr Norto’s call “nothing ventured nothing gained”. Siobhan Mulcahy confirmed that they would approach RTÉ.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, and A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to -

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