After a decade of controversy, bull sculpture is now in place

Story by Noelle Finegan

Wednesday, 30th March, 2011 5:00pm

After a decade of controversy, bull sculpture is now in place

Navan Town Clerk Shane Donnelly and sculptor Colin Grehan from Galway in front of the bull sculpture which arrived on Tuesday morning.

Some 10 years after it was first mooted, and after years of controversy, the infamous bull sculpture was finally hoisted onto its plinth at Navan's Market Square yesterday (Tuesday).

The 16-tonne limestone sculpture which depicts two men struggling to restrain a bull was created by Galway sculptor Colin Grehan and is the focal point of the town council's recently completed Market Square and Watergate Street scheme.

Huge controversy has surrounded the bull sculpture since it was first commissioned, with some 4,500 people signing a petition several years ago objecting to the sculpture being erected at Market Square.

Although the piece was completed eight years ago, it spent the past seven years in storage before it was finally delivered to the town.

The limestone artwork was due to be erected last December but various delays meant it was this week before the bull finally took its place in the centre of a revamped Market Square.

Part of the street was closed for a number of hours yesterday morning as curious onlookers gathered to witness the sculpture being lifted into place by crane, keen to get a look at the sculpture that "all the fuss was about".

Late yesterday a hoarding was erected around the sculpture in advance of an official unveiling later this month.

Paddy Pryle, who led the 'Navan Against the Bull' campaign that secured some 4,500 signatures in a petition demanding the reversal of the decision to locate it at Market Square, said it was an impressive piece of artwork but stood by his view that it was the wrong location.

"While it is a fine bit of art, anybody coming up Timmons Hill, which is one of the main entrances into the town, will be entering Navan via the bull's arse. It is one of the most crazy things I have seen put up yet," he said.

Mr Pryle said the artist had already undertaken a similar sculpture on the Nenagh bypass and felt that a lot of money had been spent on a "copy".

He said: "We are proud Navan people and believe we should have something unique. It is quite an impressive piece but it is not an original idea," he said.

Mr Pryle has also raised safety concerns about the sculpture and said that people are going to climb on top of it and it that it would "keep the casualty (unit) at Navan Hospital open".

He said already one of the paving stones had been removed and that was before the bull had been put on the plinth.

"It is a dreadful entrance to the town . Half of east Meath come into Navan up Timmons Hill, It is a dreadful impression to give people," he said.

However, one of the bull's biggest proponents, Cllr Shane Cassells, has welcomed the arrival of the work and said it was "striking feature" on the town's landscape. He said it had been a long battle to get it through the vote and he was delighted that it was finally in place.

He said: "I am delighted that, after such a long time, it is finally in place. It is a striking feature in the historical heart of the town and I am confident it is going to become a popular meeting place for the people of the town."

Cllr Cassells paid tribute to sculptor Colin Grehan for his work. He said there was a "real positive sense" around the arrival of such a significant piece of artwork in the middle of the town. He said that what was just a derelict road was now a fully renovated meeting area.

Cllr Cassells also pointed out that the sculpture was paid for eight years ago through the Per Cent Art Scheme and that the funding had come from government and not from ratepayers.

The sculpture has been placed on an elevated plinth also designed by Grehan that is surrounded by special paving in a Celtic design.

The scheme also includes grass planting, trees, seating and specially designed surface lighting. Four bronze plaques depicting various sides of the origianl high cross of Navan are also being erected at Market Square.

Some 18 submissions were received by the then UDC for the artwork when the scheme was advertised and these were shortlisted to five, with Grehan's piece winning out.

From Gort in County Galway, the artist is best known for his piece - 'Architects of the Land' - on the N7 outside Nenagh which depicts a bull on one side of the road pulling away from a workman located on the other side.

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