NEWCASTLE West could face a bill of thousands of euro to rehabilitate the Michael Hartnett statue in the town square which was mysteriously destabilised early last week.
Meanwhile, the chairman of Newcastle West community council, former TD Michael Finucane has called on the gardai to investigate the matter.
More than 10 days after it was first discovered that the statue had become “rocky on its foundations”, nobody still knows for certain how it happened. And the local community council is still waiting to find out whether Limerick County Council’s public art insurance scheme covers the work needed to re-secure the statue.
Unfortunately, until the insurance issue is clarified, nothing can be done, Michael Finucane said this week.
“It was an act of vandalism,” Mr Finucane reiterated. But he was at pains to point out that had the vandals succeeded, the scrap metal value of the statue would have been a paltry €100. And he has been pressing for the Garda to investigate the matter.
“There are CCTV cameras around the Square,” he said. “I am sure if they were studied we might find out what happened.”
Both Mr Finucane and fellow community council officer, Pat McLoughlin, are both convinced that tremendous force must have been used to cause the statue to become rocky on its foundations.
“The feeling is it wasn’t somebody with a few drinks in trying to push it over,” Mr Finuace said. “It was more serious than that.”
Mr McLoughlin confirmed that prior to erecting the statue, the community council had discussed the threat of robbery with the sculptor Rory Breslin. At that time, Mr McLoughlin said, there had already been reports of some public art being stolen. As a consequence, he added, steps were taken and reinforced steel was used to tie the statue through the limestone-block base and into a re-inforced concrete base.
“Rory Breslin reckoned it would take enormous force to remove or loosen the statue,” Mr McLoughlin said. “It is a very strong structure.”
Speculation now focuses on the possibility that a jeep or other some such vehicle was used to try and pull the statue off its pedestal – but succeeded only in destabilising it.
“There is probably some damage done internally,” Mr McLoughlin added. And he believes the statue will have to be removed and taken away to examine any internal damage before being re-inforced and re-erected.
Mr Breslin and an expert from the foundry where the sculpture was cast are ready and willing to travel to Newcastle West, Mr McLoughlin went on. But this cannot happen, he believes, until the insurance issue is sorted and an insurance assessor examines it.
“It is going to cost thousands,” he said.
“People were absolutely livid when it all happened,” he added.
“The loss to the community is enormous.”