Dublin, 18 May 2018
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) today unveiled a campaign mural calling for a YES vote in the forthcoming referendum at Bang Bang café in Phibsborough. ICCL commissioned street artist and graphic designer Giant Sigh to create a mural, which draws on images of feminist workers’ icon Rosie the Riveter and Yeats’ and Lady Gregory’s cultural representation of Ireland Cathleen Ní Houlihán to highlight the importance of women’s rights and equality in today’s Ireland.
The mural unveiling comes as ICCL released a statement this morning on the increased importance of political and artistic freedom of expression in referendum contexts. The statement was circulated widely in the arts community.
A number of speakers discussed the recent censorship of artists such as Grace Dyas, Una Mullally and Maser. Liam Herrick, director of the ICCL, said: “We’ve been gravely concerned that artists are being prevented from exhibiting art during the pre-Referendum period because their art concerns women’s experiences of abortion and has therefore been deemed too “political” to be allowed. We have analysed court judgements such as McKenna and McCrystal in the light of European Court of Human Rights judgements and, in our view, it is imperative that the government facilitate, rather than shut down, artistic and political expression even when it does come down on one side of the debate”.
Cian O’Brien of Project Arts Centre said: “I’m delighted that the ICCL are engaging with this vital issue which goes to the very core of our society and constitution. Art by its very nature, is indelibly political because it relates to the workings of the society from which it emerges. Project Arts Centre has always placed the vision and freedom of expression of the artist at the centre of our work. We firmly believe there is immeasurable value in creating space for artists and artworks that not only reflect our society, but also directly address and challenge its issues and complexities head on.”
Poet Paula Meehan of the Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment said: “The artist’s role in the culture is to question, to probe, to articulate what is silenced, to make manifest what is hidden, to reflect the full complexity of the human condition. The painting over of Maser’s mural on the wall of the Project is emblematic of a fear culture. Irish people know that attempting to bury what we find disturbing brings only heartbreak and shame. There is a relationship between the words timid and intimidation; the growing intimidation of venue management and curators bodes ill for the long-term health of the arts in Ireland and has a resonance far beyond the issue of Repeal. Self censorship is as bad for society as active oppression. We must send a clear signal of resistance and stand together for our rights as artists to make manifest the work we need to make in the context of this referendum and for the future.”
Orla O’Connor of Together for Yes wrapped up the event, saying “There are 7 days to go to the vote. It’s time to take a stand and provide care and compassion for women in ireland. Abortion is a reality in Ireland when over 3,000 women travel to the UK and over 3 women per day take abortion pills. The decision that faces us on the 25th May, is do we want another century where women and couples have to endure extreme stress and trauma or do we want regulated, safe abortion where decisions are made between between a woman and her doctor.
A representative of the SUBSET artistic collective spoke about their Grey Area Project and the crowd gathered also heard poetry from spoken word artist Lewis Kenny.