THE STATUE of famed West Limerick poet Michael Hartnett has been returned to its plinth in the square in Newcastle West after undergoing extensive repairs locally.
The bronze sculpture, which cost €35,000, was badly damaged by would-be thieves in May who unsuccessfully attempted to hoist it from its plinth so that it could be melted down for scrap.
There were fears that the statue would need to be removed and transported to its original foundry in Dublin at considerable cost to the local community council, particularly as the works would not be covered by Limerick County Council’s insurance.
However Michael Finucane, former Fine Gael TD and chairman of the community council, said that they were able to find an inexpensive compromise solution right on their doorstep in the shape of local monument sculptor Liam O’Connor.
“It was going to be a very expensive project. We had hoped that the work would be covered by insurance, but because it was deemed to be malicious damage it wasn’t.
“The plan had been to transport it up to the foundry in Dublin, but the entire cost for that would have come back to the community council. Luckily for us, Liam took a look at it and was able to do all the work we needed done locally.
“We’re very grateful to him, obviously. He was able to do all the work necessary, and the statue is now back and fully repaired.”
In June the statue’s sculptor, Rory Breslin, held an on-site meeting with Mr Finucane, Limerick County Council senior engineer Jimmy Condon and Leo Higgins from the foundry in Dublin to assess the scale of the damage.
At the time it was hoped that the repair work would be covered by the county council’s general public art works insurance. However it soon became apparent that the statue was only covered for public liability, not malicious damage, which meant that the voluntary community council would have been left facing a bill of thousands.
Mr Finucane said that while the foundry had given the community council a quote of €2,000 for the repair of the statue itself, they would have to pay for the statue to be transported to and from the foundry, which would have seen the cost sky rocket.
“We didn’t get a quote for how much that would cost, because we knew it was going to be too much”, Mr Finucane said.
The statue was subsequently removed by Mr O’Connor for repairs before being returned to the square, where it was placed back on its plinth with reinforced studs and bonding agents.
Local county councillor Damien Riedy welcomed the repair of the statue.
“Obviously we were all shocked when someone tried to vandalise it, and we’re all glad that it’s back”.