Dublin’s street art scene: What do the councillors say?

by Rachel Darcy

This week, we looked at the future of Street Art in Dublin and the current regulations surrounding the creation of street art in Dublin.

We contacted your local representatives in Dublin City Council to get their opinion on street art in the city.

Deirdre Heney (FF): I’m not against consideration being given to allow ‘graffiti spaces’ or ‘street art’/’street murals’, so long as the spaces are located in appropriate settings, and not in situations that antagonise or upset local residents.

Sophie Nicoullaud (GP): Of course street art has its place in Dublin. It is very important for a society to express oneself, and this is when artist have a lot to contribute. Artists touch on societal matters with their murals or installations, making us bypassers think, and we are free to interpret the mural however we want. Murals also add character to places, and they’re free! Isn’t it wonderful and amazing that one person, one artist decides to give her/his time to create something for all, without asking us bypassers for anything in return, just enough respect to keep the creation alone for us all to see?

Dermot Lacey (LAB): Creative street art can have a hugely uplifting impact on a street, but differs hugely from indiscriminate graffiti that is often an unfair attack on people’s private homes and gardens. The first, done with agreement, is good and should be supported; the second, severely fined.

Tom Brabrazon (FF): I think there is, of course, a place for street art. I am a particular fan of the painted utility boxes [Dublin Canvas] – it takes the bleak look from them, and adds to the streetscape and removes the hitherto blank canvas for those intent on painting graffiti.

Anthony Connaghan (SF): I am a big fan of street art and believe it has a place on Dublin streets. It brightens up boring, grey walls and bland street services around the place. Some excellent examples in my own area are the paintings of David Bowie on a traffic control box on Cardiffsbridge Rd, and one of Christy Dignam in Finglas village. I think it should be encouraged at every opportunity.

Cieran Perry (IND): I think street art adds to the vibrancy and colour of a city. Obviously, there must be some control, or we risk increasing anti-social behaviour such as graffiti. I believe Dublin City Council should increase their engagement with the artists and encourage street art. The murals on the utility boxes around the city is a great example of DCC and artists working together.

Christy Burke (IND): I do agree with murals of an interest to an area. I have been involved in the Dublin 3 area with Dublin GAA murals on space in the area. The communities and local properties support it.

Mary Fitzpatrick (FF): I grew up in Dublin 7 and remember when it was home to a vibrant fruit, veg, fish and horse market. I admire and appreciate the significance of the Horse Boy mural at Stirrup lane, Dublin 7. The image in the mural is of an authentic, indigenous Dublin 7 street character, and the quality of the artwork is great. I think street art enhances city streets and should be encouraged and supported.

Nial Ring (IND): We started the whole mural scene here in the north inner city when DCC agreed with my suggestion that a mural be put on the hoarding around a development of six houses on Ballybough Road. The historic depiction of Ballybough, when it was known as ‘Mud Island’ aroused much interest, comment and, indeed, admiration. This initiative initiated several more murals in our area; more recently, on Jim Gavin and the Dubs celebrating the ‘five-in-a-row’ now having pride of place in Ballybough. Street art can really enhance an area and be used to celebrate an area’s history, culture and heritage. I would encourage this as much as possible in this great city as we have much to boast about, and what better way than a public mural or street art?

Allison Gilliland (LAB): I believe that our streets can be a wonderful canvass for visual art and culture. Not only can they be used by local artists to showcase their talents, but they also allow local communities to enjoy art on their doorstep. We’ve seen the success of our utility boxes being used as art canvasses, and I am of the view that our street walls could be used in the same way, whereby we allocate certain street spaces to art and enter into an agreement with local artists to propose an appropriate piece to culturalise it.

Mary Callaghan (SD): I am favour of murals and creative street art. When it is done well, it can be inspiring, uplifting and thought-provoking. Colourful art can also improve wellbeing and a very colourful lift to the area. A good example is the recent murals in Ballymun which help raise awareness about climate change and the importance of the natural world. The murals incorporate ocean wildlife, along with a quote from David Attenborough, and an image of an ancient tree in the area. Much of the paint used for the mural was recycled house paint. It is lovely to see and brightens up the area.  

Michael Pidgeon (GP): Art isn’t just for galleries. Great street art is vital for a Dublin with character, creativity and soul. It’s accessible to all, brightens up streets, and reclaims the city from monotonous and bland development. It’s clear that the current system isn’t working, as many great murals are under threat from the Council. We need to work to get a proper, more flexible policy in place. We need to preserve space for art, without ignoring the problems caused by tagging and graffiti. There are some genuinely difficult policy issues to tease out in the area. What if the art is just advertising? What if it’s stirring up hatred? What if it’s done without any local consent? These are, however, solvable issues. Councillors from across the political spectrum need to work together to develop a more sensible policy on street art for the Council. My colleague, Cllr. Claire Byrne, has done a huge amount of work on this over the last five years – I’m hoping she can complete her work on it this term.

Michael Watters (FF): Street art like the murals at Smithfield and Portobello are great and I think Dublin City Council should consider commissioning street art at locations where tagging or vandalism graffiti take place. Dublin Canvas is a great project. It brings art and colour to the public domain and it would be great if projects like this and the murals in Smithfield and Portobello could be maintained and even expanded. #

Patricia Roe (SD): As a councillor and as a Dubliner, I am strongly in favour of granting permissions to public artworks. Public art is a facet of our expression of identity. As in many other ways, Dublin’s unique culture and spirit, expressed through murals, graffiti and public art, is being cleansed and sanitised. Cities such as Bristol, Copenhagen and London have become known for their public art and graffiti with Bristol in particular capitalising on the legacy of murals created by Banksy in the city centre – now offering ‘Graffiti Tours’ for visitors. Such art should not be marginalised and pushed to the fringes but encouraged and given dedicated space to flourish.

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