*Artist Aidan Harte standing behind the Púca in Carron. Photograph: Arthur Ellis

AFTER MUCH CONTROVERSY, the Púca has finally been unveiled in its new home of Co Clare.

Following a roller-coaster ride, the €30,000 sculpture was officially unveiled in the heart of the Burren with hopes high that it will boost the tourism offering of the locality.

An approximate 200 people gathered at the Michael Cusack Centre, the birthplace of the founder of the GAA, on Saturday afternoon for the official unveiling of the Púca. Inspired by Irish folklore and the locality’s equine heritage, the 2m-tall bronze art piece is expected be a significant draw for visitors to the visitor attraction.

Artist Aidan Harte, who was commissioned by the Arts Office of Clare County Council to produce the artwork, said, “I want to thank the people of Carron and the Burren for making this scallywag welcome. I couldn’t pick a better backdrop. The Púca has come home. A wild place for a wild thing.”

Commenting about his first piece of public art, the Kilkenny artist described the Púca as one of Irish folklore’s great characters. “Douglas Hyde, the first President of Ireland (1938-45), described ‘a terrible steed’ carrying mortals to fairyland on his back,” he said. “Catch him in the right mood, said Hyde, and the Púca tells fortunes and grants wishes. People who never heard these stories want to know if the Púca is bad or good. He’s neither. Like the rest of us he’s inconsistent”.

He added, “They tried to cancel the Púca and they have failed. Now having it in Carron is an opportunity for people in Clare to go see what people didn’t want them to see and for them to make up their own minds.”

The Michael Cusack Centre in Carron, which is located in an area historically named ‘Poll a Phúca’ or ‘Lair of the Púca’, was selected as the artwork’s home following an expressions of interest process managed by Clare County Council, earning the nod ahead of Ballyvaughan.

Dónal Ó hAiniféin, Chair of the Board of Michael Cusack Centre, commented, “We are thrilled that the fantastic Púca artwork is coming home. The Michael Cusack Centre is a most appropriate setting for this magnificent figure”. He said the Centre went “hell for leather” to secure the artwork. Dónal noted that “while the Púca was a controversial enough figure, Michael Cusack himself was controversial”.

Mr. Ó hAiniféin confirmed that plans to develop an annual event celebrating the Púca are at an advanced stage. “The annual Samhain / Púca Storytelling Festival on November 1st will celebrate the folklore around the Púca with a programme of events ranging from the academic to children’s art,” he explained. “The inaugural event later this year also will coincide with the 175th anniversary of the birth of Michael Cusack here in Carron”.

Leonard Cleary, Director of Rural Development with Clare County Council, described the Michael Cusack Centre as “a fitting home for the Púca and will add value to both the installation and the community-run visitor attraction”.

Addressing the crowd, Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) acknowledged, “We know the statue hasn’t won universal praise for a variety of reasons. However, we believe it will enthral, entertain and evoke an emotional response from all those who come here to engage with it and that is the idea of art”.

He said whether the Púca “frightens you or entertains you, you will have to make up your mind”. Before unveiling the statue, Cllr Killeen remarked, “I think the more controversy about the Púca the better and it really is a valuable addition to the Michael Cusack Centre and it will be a big draw here.”

The Púca was originally commissioned by the Local Authority in 2021 as part of a capital project investment to increase visitor dwell time in Ennistymon and further enhance the overall appearance of the town. Public backlash including a denouncement from the altar leading to a public survey by consultancy firm Connect the Dots saw the launch of an expression of interest process. Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF) who previously called the sculpture “hideous” was present at the unveiling, Senator Martin Conway (FG) was another of the critics, “The Púca still puts the fear of God into old people and was a figure that was used to frighten people. This Púca has upset a lot of people. It is a fairy that a lot of people are wary about. It goes back to Pagan times”.

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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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