Púca of Ennistymon

SCARY, beautiful, ugly, creative, hideous, quirky, vulgar, wonderful, grotesque, imaginative, evil, humorous, frightening, refreshing, eye-catching and eye-sore.

These are just some of the words used by those who participated in the Clare County Council consultants’ survey that resulted in the Council saying ‘no’ to the €30,000 bronze Púca sculpture for Ennistymon after an eight month long controversy.

Released in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the 24 page report by Council hired consultants, Connect The Dots reveals the depth of local feeling that the Púca engendered.

The report states that 674 responses were received as to whether people liked the Púca or not with 370 or 55% outlining reasons for disliking it with 291 or 44% in favour of the Púca. The report states that there were at least 79 mentions of ‘ugly’, 10 mentions of ‘scary’, 11 mentions of ‘hideous’ and eight mentions of ‘eye-sore’.

The report states: “Other examples included dark, evil, unappealing, unpleasant, frightening, grotesque and vulgar”. The report states that a number of responses were concerned with the lack of connection of Púca to Ennistymon.

The report states that furthermore a number of submissions were concerned for its impact on the community, specifically kids, deeming it as inappropriate and scary for younger children. The report states that in the responses, that there was a “concern for vandalism in the case that the installation would go ahead”.

Asked for an alternative location for the Púca, responders suggested ‘at the bottom of the ocean’, ‘Space near Pluto’ and another suggested ‘somewhere hidden’ or ‘behind a wall’. The report states that almost 60% of those who provided an alternative location did not provide practical recommendations.

One respondent wrote that “the local community has been left with a bad taste in their mouths regarding the whole debacle’ while other contended that the Púca is “ugly, inappropriate…Púca is linked to evil, unwelcoming, not what you would want to portray to visitors or guests”.

The report states that in contrast, there were many key themes repeated in favour of the artwork “including its uniqueness and originality as well as its ability to create conversation, provoke thought and peak interest the way a piece of art should”.

The report states that “others commended the artist’s abilities” and respondents also mentioned descriptions of the Púca including “fun, humorous, imaginative, abstract, quirky, eye-catching, refreshing and striking”.

One person wrote that the artwork ‘beautifully encapsulates the essence of the Púca legend – he is not supposed to be a cuddly character’ while another wrote ‘technically, stunning, incredible craft and thematically rich. A memorable work of art’.

Another wrote ‘it puts the ‘Wild’ in ‘Wild Atlantic Way’, while another wrote that “I didn’t like it, but with all the publicity, I have grown to love it’.

Another fan of the Púca wrote that it ‘connects the old world and the new world and the surrealism is a nice contrast to the town’s more traditional aesthetic’.

Another person wrote “it would be a real shame if you let the naysayers have their way. It’s a beautiful piece of work”.

Another person to respond wrote, “I would hate to think a stunning piece of art like would be vetoed by the Church or by people without the vision to see what it would bring to the community”.

Forecasting a tourism dividend, one responder wrote “tourists would love to have a photo with the ‘love it or hate it’ artwork”.

Another person wrote that the proposed sculpture “has given our town very bad publicity. We did not deserve this”.

The report found that “although numbers were consistently quite balanced, voices and opinions against the artwork and location were much more impassioned and were slightly higher in number”.

The creator of the Púca, artist, Aidan Harte said on Tuesday that the Connect the Dots report “made for entertaining reading”. He said: “It was a losing battle from the start. There is a sound reason why public art is typically not selected by a vote”.

He said: “Wherever it is tried, the results please no one and I blame shows like the X Factor that promoted childish ideas that art should be as convenient as fast food, instantly appealing, easily consumed and quickly forgotten”.

He said: “A poll like this promotes division and extremism and tellingly the report says that 99% of people to respond were online and the majority of those chose the highest or lowest rating so it is either ‘love or hate’ and nothing in between in the middle where most normal people are and they are entirely excluded”.

Mr Harte states that such a consultation process and report “reduces a complicated nuanced discussion into numbers and percentages”.

Mr Harte also questioned responders who expressed concerns over the impact the Púca would have on young children.

Mr Harte – who confirmed that work on the Púca is continuing -visited west Clare school, Rineen National School with a model of the Púca recently “and the kids were lining up to touch the Púca – it turns out Clare kids are ‘monster mad’”.

He said: “I appreciate all those who stood up for Púca particularly the person who wrote that the Púca puts the Wild in the Wild Atlantic Way.”

He said: “Whatever my reservations about hiring a consultancy firm to organise an online vote, I fully accept Clare County Council’s decision not to put it up in Ennistymon”.

Following the Ennistymon rejection, Clare County Council put the Púca up for grabs for other north Clare communities. The closing date for expressions of interest was last Thursday and the Council is remaining tight-lipped, for now, on the level of interest.

A Council spokesman said that information concerning expressions of interest will be released and the next steps following a closing meeting with Connect The Dots on April 6th.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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