Athlone Town Council has decided to ask the board of the new municipal art gallery to consider concerns and objections to a current exhibition at their next meeting.

The exhibition features letters from H-Block hunger strikers and IRA prisoners.

Fine Gael Councillor Mark Cooney had proposed a motion to formally request the Luan Gallery to take down the work of artist Shane Cullen.

He claimed it was causing offence to many people.

However, a counter-proposal was passed after several councillors expressed their concern over the implications of such a move and it was agreed that the board of the gallery be consulted.

The counter-proposal was supported by six members of the council, including Fine Gael Councillor Alan Shaw.

Afterwards Mr Cullen said he was shocked by the original proposal to take down his work - saying that he had exhibited it all over the world - including places such as Portadown, Co Armagh.

Cllr Cooney said he did recognise the work as art, but felt the content of the piece was hugely offensive - especially at a time when prison officers and members of the security forces were under attack again in Northern Ireland.

He said there were occasions when everybody had to censor for the good.

"We need censorship to protect our children - sometimes you have do it," he said.

Earlier, the Irish Museum of Modern Art said in a statement that "Fragments sur les Institutions Républicaines IV" was a major artwork by one of Ireland's most respected artists.

It said the work was purchased in 2000 for the national collection of modern and contemporary art at IMMA and has been exhibited widely in Ireland, the UK, France and the US.

IMMA said any proposal to remove the work would be a retrograde step, which would "undermine the Luan Gallery's position and remit as a facilitator of contemporary art and culture".