Financing the replacement of a sculpture of Manannán Mac Lir that was stolen almost a month ago from Binevenagh mountain outside Limavady could well be left in the hands of the public.
The six-foot fibre glass statue by ‘Game of Thrones’ sculptor Darren John Sutton was cut down from Gortmore in January. A wooden cross with the words YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME was the only clue left by those who made off with it.
Since its disappearance, almost 7,000 people from around the world have backed a social media campaign for it to be returned. An air and land search of the area by Limavady police turned up nothing.
News of the sculpture’s disappearance made global news catching the attention of media in America and Russia and in the Isle of Man.
Limavady councillors were asked to decide if they should replace the statue on Tuesday. They were told that 2,000 people backing the Facebook campaign were willing to make a contribution to have the statue replaced with offers of support from countries including America, Canada and New Zealand.
The issue encouraged an almost hour-long debate which was, at times, confusing, with at least two proposals being put forward only to be withdrawn.
In the end, it was agreed, in principle, Council would like to see the sculpture replaced as close to its original form as possible, hopefully costing no more than the original £10,000; that it would be funded by the public as much as possible and it would be reinforced as much as possible. It was agreed that Council officers investigate what is involved in setting up a public fund and bring the costs, and any other information after having spoken with sculptor Darren John Sutton, back to members at the final Limavady Council meeting in March.
TUV Colr. Boyd Douglas said he had never been enthusiastic about it and, while he condemned those who stole the sculpture, he said it was “quite paganistic”. He felt something should be erected to mark where the Broighter Gold was found rather than erecting something that would likely be stolen again.
“If people want to put up the money, let them,” said Colr. Douglas, “but I am not enthusiastic about spending ratepayers’ money.”
SDLP Colr. Gerry Mullan said the sculptor, Darren John Sutton was “an exceptionally gifted sculptor whose technical ability is nothing short of sheer genius. The Manannán Mac Lir sculpture, created in a very traditional style places him, in my view, on a par with any of the great masters, including Michelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci.”
Colr. Mullan said the sculpture should be replaced as close to the original as possible by Darren John Sutton and that the boat be full size. He said if the statue was replaced people would flock to it, and it would become a shrine. He said the attention given globally to news of the sculpture’s disappearance showed its pulling power as a tourist attraction, something the Limavady area needed given how hard it had been hit in recent years with job losses, Colr. Mullan said.
Sinn Fein Colr. Anne Brolly asked how would the statue be secured if it was replaced.
DUP Colr. James McCorkell asked if the sculpture was insured and he was told it wasn’t; that public art in open places is not covered by theft.
SDLP Colr. Michael Coyle said the ironic thing was the sculpture was erected to attract tourists, but since it had been stolen it had actually attracted more footfall than before.
UUP Colr. Edwin Stevenson said it was far too good to be set on a mountain top and that Council needed to look at something entirely different that can’t be vandalised, and it would have to include the Broighter Gold. He said he wasn’t happy asking the public to pay as it was Council who placed the sculpture where it was vulnerable.
Sinn Fein Colr. Brenda Chivers said the matter had been raised at mass in Drumsurn recently and the congregation told not to worship pagan gods.
DUP Colr. Mayor Alan Robinson said: “This was theft ... Whoever has it, whether it’s in their garden or garage, return it somewhere safe.”
The last Limavady Borough meeting before the new Causeway Coast and Glens super council takes over is on March 10.