Fellow councillors withdraw support for Ó Súilleabháin’s motion on mural to honour local leaders ahead of civil war centenary
A member of Gorey-Kilmuckridge Municipal District told his fellow councillors he was “fed up of the bull*t” as a discussion about a mural got messy at last week’s meeting.
Prior to the meeting, Cllr Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin had secured the backing of six other councillors for his motion proposing a mural to honour local figures like Liam Mellows, Seán Etchingham and Máire Comerford as part of the centenary programme.
However, by the time of the meeting at the Upton Court Hotel came around, only Cllr Diarmuid Devereux supported the motion.
Cllr Ó Súilleabháin asked what happened to those who had given their support and why they hadn’t contacted them in advance to say they had withdrawn their names.
“This motion had seven names,” he said, before District Manager Philip Night confirmed that a number of councillors had been in touch to ask for their names to be withdrawn.
Cllr Devereux said that he had supported the motion on the day it was drawn up because it was the first proposal of any significance with regard to the civil war centenary.
“I didn’t realise my name had been removed but as 2022 is moving closer all the time, Gorey, as far as I’m aware, is the only place in Leinster that has three significant leaders remembered with Liam Mellows buried within a four- to five-mile radius of the town.
“We need to commemorate the centenary but it needs to be done outside of politics.
“If we had small groups of various parties involved in deciding what to do, something apart from a remembrance stone, it might bring us options for reasonable things to do over the coming year,” he said.
Cllr Joe Sullivan criticised Cllr Ó Súilleabháin for speaking about the lack of courtesy shown, adding that he had deleted him as a friend on Facebook. Cllr Ó Súilleabháin said he was not aware of that.
Cllr Andrew Bolger apologised to Cllr Ó Súilleabháin, saying that he should have told him he had removed his name.
“Afterwards, I didn’t feel that the motion was not what I wanted and I was bounced in to agreeing to it,” he said.
Cllr Donal Kenny said that he wasn’t totally in favour of murals, as they don’t get the maintenance and can look “shabby” but understood that word had been sent back to Cllr Ó Súilleabháin.
Cllr Anthony Donohoe suggested that another art form be commissioned that was “classier” than a mural on a building, as they require money to be replenished.
“We need to be a little bit more thoughtful, we can think differently than a stone or a boulder for this,” he said.
Responding, Cllr Ó Súilleabháin said those who had removed their names from the motion had done so for “pathetic political reasons”.
“People in this room have posed for murals all around Gorey and Courtown and the idea and spirit behind this is not about a rock or mural. It was put in to be cooperative and have broad agreement to get people talking. We want to create something educational so people are talking once again about Liam Mellows, Seán Etchingham and Máire Comerford. It’s very simple and straight forward,” he said.
Cllr Willie Kavanagh said that it should be up to the Gorey councillors to decide, but added that Cllr Ó Suilleabháin was from a party “well used to manoeuvres”.
“This is a waste of meeting time and we need to change the wording of the motion,” he said.
Cllr Devereux said that his fellow councillors “shouldn’t carry on like this” and that politics needed to be taken out of the debate – something Cllr Ó Súilleabháin agreed with.
“Murals have been fantastic in this district and this motion is not about murals. I support the motion to recognise Liam Mellows, Seán Etchingham and Máire Comerford, particularly due to my background in Wexford GAA, but that this mural is the beginning and end of the proposal, that doesn’t make sense”.
Cllr Breen said that “cool heads” were needed as the debate had got heated, while Cllr Mary Farrell said that she was “totally confused”.
It was then suggested that Cllr Ó Súilleabháin take the word “mural” out of the motion for it to be agreed to.
Cllr Donohoe suggested that he had always been against murals, but proposed an amendment to the motion that would instead ask for a fitting commemoration as part of the centenary, which Cllr Kavanagh agreed to.
Cllr Ó Súilleabháin said that he was shocked that all of a sudden councillors were against murals and that nothing was ever straight forward in the council.
“I wanted a mural to be one part of a larger programme but at this stage, I’m fed up of the bullsh*t that goes on in here,” he said.
Cllr Sullivan said that a mural would restrict the council and “ties us in too tight”. He suggested that a statue or standing piece of art be created using iron.
“We want something that stands the test of time and I propose we come up with a committee around 1922,” he said.
It was then suggested that the conversation had gotten “crazy” and that political football was taking place.
Cllr Breen said that the matter needed to be discussed further but held a vote on the motion and the counter proposal which was seconded by Cllr Sullivan. The counter proposal was supported by Cllr Breen, Cllr Sullivan, Cllr Bolger, Cllr Willie Kavanagh, Cllr Donal Kenny and Cllr Anthony Donohoe.