Limavady councillors will decide if the iconic statue of Manannán Mac Lir that was stolen from Binevenagh should be replaced.
Councillors will vote on Tuesday night on a proposal offering the option to replace the stolen six-foot tall fibre glass sculpture using mild steel and at two to three times the size costing of approximately £30,000.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Sinn Fein Councillor Anne Brolly said: “The fact it’s in such an isolated place and if it was stolen for fundamental religious reasons, then will whoever stole it do it again, and how would we ensure the safety of the statue. We are talking about ratepayers’ money and I think if it is decided to replace the statue we would have to have an open competition with new criteria and re-advertise it for all artists and give everyone a chance.”
TUV Colr. Boyd Douglas isn’t enthusiastic about replacing the statue in any shape or form.
“I felt the original statue was paganistic and I felt it should never have been erected under those terms. We were told at the time the statue wasn’t costing Council much money,” said Colr. Douglas, who said if replaced using steel it may well become a target of metal thieves. “I can’t see any point in putting a statue on top of a mountain where there is no one around and where it is vulnerable from the start. To replace it would cost Council money and I wouldn’t be in favour of spending ratepayers’ money on this, so I’m not enthusiastic about replacing it.”
SDLP Councillor Gerry Mullan doesn’t believe a new statue needs to be two to three times the size of the original sculpture.
“I would fear it may be interpreted as an antagonistic gesture which may encourage further vandalism,” said Colr. Mullan. “Personally, I would be happy to see Mannanán back and replaced in his original form.”
Ulster Unionist Colr. Edwin Stevenson said: “I would like to see it replaced with something similar, but certainly not three times as big and most definitely not three times the cost; that would be a bit much. A lot of thought is needed to see what it would be made of, and while no one is sure why it was stolen we need to do what we can to make sure not it wouldn’t be stolen again. I would certainly be against spending £30,000 and I would hope no councillor would be in favour of spending that sort of money.”
Colr. Stevenson added: “No-one had the right to steal it, whatever religion or Christian belief they had. There is no religion I am aware of that condones theft.”
The man who poured his heart and soul into the sculpture, artist Darren John Sutton from Dungannon said the worldwide outpouring of support provided him with some comfort and makes him feel proud people held his work in such esteem.