Cork County Council has expressed its disappointment at “persistent, distressing negative online commentary” which led an artist to remove a sculpture of the late Hollywood actress Maureen O’Hara from public display in her adopted home of Glengarriff.
In a statement the local authority said it sought funding, at the request of Glengarriff Tourism and Development Association, from the 2017 Town and Village Renewal Scheme for a project to commemorate Irish born Ms O’Hara with a life-size bronze art installation.
The commission for this sculpture was not installed as the original artist suffered ill health which prevented the completion of her work.
Glengarriff Tourism and Development Association subsequently advised the coDon uncil that it was not in a financial position to commission a new artwork which would comply with the terms of the scheme.
It was agreed that Cork County Council would instead commission a sculpture to deliver the project for the community in accordance with the application for funding.
The second sculpture, commissioned in 2020 at a cost of €33,000 to sculptor Don Cronin, was installed in Glengarriff in late April. The council said that it was pleased with the sculpture.
“The Council is satisfied that it was a good representation of a youthful Maureen O’Hara, had artistic merit, was appropriate for installation in a public space and fulfilled the objectives as set out in the Town and Village Renewal Scheme application.”
The local authority added that the sculptor decided to remove the statue and refuse the commission following a major backlash online.
“Cork County Council regrets that following persistent distressing negative online commentary about the installation, as has been reported by local and national media, the artist indicated that it was his preference to remove the sculpture and refuse the commission.
"The Council is disturbed that inappropriate anonymous online commentary has become a prevalent and unfair means to respond to community projects such as this and is also mindful of the impact of the online violation of the reputation of a well known, respected, talented local artist and sincerely regrets the distress which he and his family have experienced due to his participation in this project.”
Maureen O’Hara was born in Ranelagh, Dublin in 1920. She was the eldest of six children in the Fitzsimons family.
The Abbey Theatre-trained actor became a naturalised US citizen in 1946 and held dual Irish-US citizenship.
Her early films included My Irish Molly and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but it was for director John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952), in which she starred opposite John Wayne, that she will be best remembered. She died in October 2015 in Boise, Idaho having starred in over 60 films.
Her 71-year-old daughter Bronwyn Fitzsimons was found dead in a property owned by the family of Ms O’Hara in Glengarriff in May 2016.
Maureen O’Hara had a life-long love for West Cork, an affection reciprocated by the community at Glengarriff. She owned a property in the scenic coastal town for four decades.
Lugdine Park was her escape from the intense limelight associated with being a star of the silver screen for most of her adult life. She left the property for the last time in 2012 to be closer to family in the US.
Ms O’Hara bought the property with her late husband Charles Blair in 1970. The record setting pilot died in a plant crash in St Thomas in the Virgin Islands in 1978
Maureen entertained many visitors in Glengarriff including the late former mayor of New York, Ed Koch. The star received an honorary Oscar in 2014 — the year before her death in her sleep at the age of 95.