President Michael D Higgins has unveiled a bronze replica of a statue of Pádraic Ó Conaire in Galway's Eyre Square, 11 years after the original sculpture was removed for preservation.

For decades, the statue of the Connemara writer was a popular tourist attraction in Galway, with thousands of people having their photograph taken beside the monument.

Vandals decapitated the statue in 1999 and soon afterwards, a decision was taken to move it indoors to the Galway City Museum.

Using the original drawings and models from the archive of sculptor Albert Power, a bronze replica was cast over the last two years in Dublin. Moulds were made of the original statue to ensure the reproduction was as true as possible.

It has been placed in the centre of Eyre Square, after site investigation works were carried out by geologists, to make sure the ground in question was stable enough for the replica.

Work on the bronze statue was overseen by sculptor Maurice Quillinan.

The process began when the original was moved from the Museum to a foundry in late 2015.

The 400 kg statue was cleaned of soot, pollution and carbon deposits before crevices were cleaned and damaged areas were temporarily replaced using plasticine. A six-piece mould was then made using silicon rubber. Wax was then poured into the mould to allow for the casting of the bronze replica.

Albert Power's original statue has been returned to the entrance lobby of the Galway City Museum.

Mr Quillinan said the absence of the original statue "was like a family member being missing from Eyre Square."

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One Mr Quillinan said people were "climbing up on it to get their picture taken" within minutes of the statue's unveiling by President Higgins.

The Kildare-based artist said it has already "regained its public appeal".

He added that the stature is surrounded by stone from Ó Conaire's homeplace in Ros Muc in Connemara.