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€10,000 for Bertie portrait 'a waste'

THE Office of Public Works (OPW) has been urged to scrap its long tradition of commissioning expensive portraits of former Taoisigh after it emerged that a €10,000 painting of Bertie Ahern is about to be put on permanent display in the Dail.

The OPW has confirmed that a taxpayer-funded painting of Mr Ahern will be mounted in Leinster House in the coming weeks after the Dail goes into recess.

Social Justice Ireland said it would be appropriate in the current climate for the OPW, which confirmed it has as yet not commissioned a portrait of Brian Cowen, to use cheaper photographs to depict former Taoisigh from now on.

However, the OPW has said there would be no pomp or ceremony surrounding the hanging of Mr Ahern's portrait, which was painted in 2001 by the acclaimed Dublin artist James Hanley.

"It will be hung in chronological sequence in the series of portraits of former Taoisigh located around the main staircase leading to the Dail Chamber in Leinster House," said an OPW representative.

She added: "The portrait of former Taoiseach Brian Cowen will be commissioned in the near future for the series that hangs in the Houses of the Oireachtas. The process is not yet formally in hand."

But Fr Sean Healy, who heads Social Justice Ireland, said: "It's a long-standing tradition for portraits of former Taoisigh to be mounted, but photographs would serve exactly the same purpose and adequately mark the legacy of a former Taoiseach at a much cheaper price.

"A sum of €10,000 may not be a large amount of money in the bigger scheme of things, but it's hugely symbolic of how taxpayers' money is being spent and in the current climate it is a complete waste."

Sunday Independent