Thursday 22 March 2018

Cowen: 'No one has contacted me about my state portrait'

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen. Photo: Frank McGrath
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen. Photo: Frank McGrath
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen has confirmed for the first time he has never been contacted by the Government about commissioning an official state portrait - an honour bestowed upon all former Taoisigh since the foundation of the State.

The Coalition's snub to Mr Cowen comes as it can be revealed a €12,000 portrait of President Michael D Higgins was recently commissioned even while he is still in office.

However, five years after Mr Cowen retired from political life, he has yet to be contacted by Taoiseach Enda Kenny's office about posing for an official portrait to be hung in Leinster House.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, the former Fianna Fail leader confirmed Mr Kenny's officials had not contacted him about commissioning the official art work.

"It doesn't fill my days wondering about the fact that they haven't," he said.

Mystery has surrounded the status of Mr Cowen's portrait for the past five years and Department of Taoiseach officials previously said the process of commissioning a portrait had begun.

However, no explanation has ever been given for the delay in starting work on a portrait of Mr Cowen, which would be displayed alongside the rest of the country's leaders in the main stairway in Leinster House.

Mr Cowen's predecessor, Bertie Ahern, had his portrait commissioned in 2001 during his second term in office and it was hung in 2011 after he retired as a TD.

There is a noticeable gap in the mezzanine outside the Dail chamber where the former Offaly TD's portrait will hang once completed.

An Office of Public Works (OPW) spokeswoman said they were waiting for the Department of the Taoiseach to officially ask for a commission to be sought for a portrait of Mr Cowen.

President Higgins' portrait will begin shortly and will be displayed in Leinster House until he leaves office. It will then be hung in Aras an Uachtarain.

Sunday Independent

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