The Fine Gael politician who ordered the hijacking of the body of dead hunger striker Frank Stagg and for his remains to be buried under six foot of concrete has objected to a text-based installation of H-Block comms rendered into a work of art by Longford-born artist, Shane Cullen.
Patrick Cooney was Minister for Justice from 1973 to 1977 in Leinster House, a period during which the government introduced Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act which censored Sinn Féin elected representatives from being heard on radio or television, and was a period noted for the ‘heavy gang’, a group of detectives within the Garda Síochána who intimidated and tortured suspects.
Since last November the new Luan Gallery in Athlone has featured an exhibition, ‘Borrowed Memories’, which included Shane Cullen’s ‘Fragmens sur les Institutions Republicaines IV 1993-1997’, in which he has painstakingly reproduced the hunger strikers’ messages smuggled out of the H-Blocks during the protest. Irish Times art critic Aidan Dunne wrote of the exhibition that “the nature and texture of the language used in the messages is particularly interesting and worth close attention”.
Mr Cooney complained, “I don’t think it is art and secondly, the theme is inappropriate. If it was removed I’d shed no tears.” He said that the featured messages were from “terrorists”. On the day of the opening of the exhibition Mr Cooney, according to a report in An Phoblacht, became agitated on seeing the artwork and demanded to see the manager to get the exhibit removed.
Mr Cooney’s son Mark, a Fine Gael councillor has tabled a motion for the monthly meeting of Athlone Town Council calling for the exhibit to be removed, claiming that it is “offensive to so many people.” As the Luan Gallery are owned by the local authority, Councillor Cooney believes the council has the power to remove the installation.
One poster on the Politics.ie website wondered “would Cooney object if they were the records of men of 1916-1922?”