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Wednesday 18 September 2019

'On to the next one' - How nothing is stopping these street artists hitting Dublin with the 'grey area project'

Tourists and locals were greeted by the faces of Michael D Higgins and Father Ted character Mrs Doyle (Photo: Instagram/SubsetDublin)
Tourists and locals were greeted by the faces of Michael D Higgins and Father Ted character Mrs Doyle (Photo: Instagram/SubsetDublin)
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

Last month, the face of the president of Ireland painted in shades of grey appeared on a shop-front in Dublin.

In the popular area of Temple Bar, tourists and locals were greeted by the faces of Michael D Higgins and Father Ted character Mrs Doyle.

But after a mere few weeks, both murals were removed by Dublin City Council. The paintings were covered with grey paint last week.

These pieces of street art were created by SUBSET, a collective made up of some of Ireland's most-talented street artists. They began the 'grey area project' this year to tackle the council's reaction to public art forms.

The project was inspired by the cover up the painting of rapper Stormzy last year. As part of the 'grey area project', SUBSET brought Mr Higgins and Mrs Doyle to the front of a designer consignment store on Cecelia Street, Siopaella.

Taking to Instagram, CEO of Siopaella Ella de Guzman said it was with "sadness and frustration" that the street art outside their shop walls was removed.

"We received a letter from Dublin City Council that stated: 'it is alleged that a mural and awnings have been provided on the above premises without the relevant grant of planning permission' and that 'a person who is guilty of an offence under section 151 and or 154 shall be liable to a fine or term of imprisonment or both'.

"Basically, the planning laws in Ireland make it incredibly difficult for artists and small businesses alike and this is just an example of how these laws ruined what was both a great tourist draw in Dublin’s Temple Bar, and a deterrent for unwanted vomiting, defecating, urination, and illegal graffiti work."

#37 @tomas_totale back at @siopaella #greyareaproject

A post shared by SUBSET (@subsetdublin) on

According to de Guzman, before the murals were installed, their shop front was home to many unwanted behaviour on a regular basis.

"It was only when SUBSET installed art work that the other issues we had nearly disappeared and were greatly minimised. Yes, can you believe that by having our President’s portrait deterred people from using our wall as a toilet? We couldn’t either!

"No doubt we will again need to deal with the inherent problems any small business owner in Temple Bar faces as our walls again will attract illegal unwanted activity instead of being respected - this is precisely the goodness that SUBSET created.

"Respect. Beautiful artwork creates respect - that is what we learned in this short month."

RIFT #greyareaproject #installation #geometric #negative #minimal #36

A post shared by SUBSET (@subsetdublin) on

According to SUBSET, the murals were removed due to "unauthorised development".

"It is nothing new to us that it was removed, no surprise there," a spokesperson told

The laws around what differentiates street art from graffiti remain blurred. When asked which walls are allowed to be painted on, a spokesperson for DCC said that "murals on a building constitute development and as such require planning permission through the usual planning application process".

The first removal of one of SUBSET's 'grey area project' pieces has received backlash from the public online.

When another SUBSET painting of The Rubberbandits' Blindboy Boatclub was removed in March, he described the removal as "fierce disappointing".

Labour councillor Rebecca Moynihan is among a group of Dublin councillors advocating for change on the Dublin street art scene.

"I've been working on this with the arts committee in Dublin City Council, and I'd like to see where we develop a set of guidelines and consult with the artist community about street art and street murals," she told

"I think it brings huge vibrancy to the public realm within Dublin city and I think it's something that people admire in other cities."

For SUBSET, this isn’t the end for the 'grey area project' in a bid to make Dublin more colourful.

"Our reaction to this removal? On to the next one."

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