When it comes to the law, activist Máirín de Burca, now 83 has seen it all; countless arrests, housing occupations, imprisonments, court injunctions and fines - but she is best known for her role in changing history with her involvement with the Juries Act, 1976, in which she, alongside Mary Anderson, challenged the State to allow women to sit on juries for the first time since 1927.
Through a Creative Residency partnership between Dublin City Council Culture Company and The Honorable Society of King's Inns, acclaimed artist Jesse Jones was inspired by the life of Máirín de Burca to create her first permanent art piece - she introduces The Left Arm of Commerce below.
Lockdown at King’s Inns, during the Creative Residency, was a memorable experience, and one I never thought I would have in my life. I lived alone there from March to June 2020 as lectures and normal on site operations were moved online. The stoic stoniness of the buildings had stood through, the Act of Union, the Great Famine, a revolution and a Civil War, and they stood through all that with the proud motto 'NOLUMUS MUTARI: we do not wish to be changed'. That was until everything changed.
Throughout lockdown I met with Máirín de Burca, often over tea and donuts in her back garden in Marino with Lisa Godson. Godson collected an oral history account that will also be held along with Mairin's personal archive in Kings Inn library and will serve as an important educational resource for students and researchers.
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Listen: The Left Arm Of Commerce - Jesse Jones talks to RTÉ Arena
During these lively discussions we spoke about her life, her countless arrests, housing occupations, imprisonments, court injunctions and fines. Her legacy is of an activist that proved that sometimes we have to break the law in our search for justice, and for me Mairin is an example of a woman that showed how in breaking the law we can sometimes change the law itself.
She is most publicly known for her role in changing history with her involvement with the Juries Act, 1976, in which she and Mary Anderson challenged the State to allow women to sit on juries for the first time since 1927. Mairin's housing activism through the Dublin housing campaigns of the 1970's is so inspiring again today in these times of a housing crisis that is destroying our city and our collective lives.
It was this that inspired me to create a permanent monument to the role of the ‘radical litigant’ to be housed in King's Inn. Through this sculpture I hoped to include this radical legal subject into the historical frame of significant legal figures. The work, entitled The Left Arm of Commerce, is a portland stone statue of the arm and hand of Máirín de Burca holding her personal copy of Bunreacht na hÉireann. The final part of this work has been made from burnt wood, a plinth designed with Sarah Murphy, I used burnt wood to reference the histories of the witch trials and connection to women’s continued struggle. Máirín de Burca’s arm is placed on top of this plinth of burnt wood, echoing our resistance and regenerative movements with and against the law.
This new sculpture is the result of the inaugural Creative Residency programme made by Dublin City Council Culture Company. The Creative Residency @ Kings Inns is a partnership with Dublin City Council Culture Company and The Honorable Society of Kings Inns, Dublin, where the sculpture is displayed.
Find out more about Jesse Jones and The Creative Residency @ Kings Inns here.