Plans to erect a controversial public sculpture of a Púca in the north Clare town of Ennistymon have been shelved.
Clare County Council confirmed they will not be proceeding with the project.
The two-metre high bronze art statue which had been inspired by Irish folklore and the areas equine heritage, had caused much controversy when it was announced last May.
Many described it as 'offensive, frightening, grotesque', and not in keeping with the town's history or culture.
Clare County Council announced that the bronze sculpture will instead be offered to other north Clare towns, village and community operated tourism sites, through an expression of interest process to be announced shortly.
The public art sculpture was commissioned early this year and was among 18 submissions received by the council as part of a wider €500,000 investment to enhance the overall appearance of the town, attract more visitors and tourists and get people to spend more time there.
The council undertook a survey last November following representations from the local community and elected members to gauge how people felt about the sculpture and its location.
More than 720 survey responses were received with 43.5% saying they 'really disliked it' compared to 34.3% saying they 'really liked it'.
Following a meeting today the council confirmed it would not be proceeding with plans to install the artwork in Ennistymon.
It now proposes to relocate the piece within the north Clare area and will shortly invite community groups who have a link to tourism and may be interested in the piece, to express their interest.
Meanwhile, its back to the drawing board about a proposed new piece for Ennistymon which this time will be developed through a full public consultation process, the council added.
The artist who was commissioned by Clare County Council to cast the sculpture has told RTÉ's Drivetime that he would be happy if the Púca was erected in an alternative north Clare town but that his agreement with the local authority may have to be amended if that is to happen.
"When I was called by John O’Sullivan, who is an executive with the council and he told me of this alternative plan, I told him that’s fine and that I’d be delighted to have it in another town in Clare that’s happy to see it," Aidan Harte said.
"But that would be another agreement because what we agreed to originally was to put it up in Ennistymon in August of last year. I’d like to have something specific before I agree to another open-ended process. What’s to stop the same thing happening again?" he queried, adding that the controversial piece is not yet complete.
"It isn’t done. Nobody has actually seen the sculpture. A mould has been made out of clay but it hasn’t been cast in bronze. This thing was paused before I could get it cast in bronze. That’s the majority of the €30,000 budget. I’ve been waiting to actually get it cast and until it’s fully paid for, I own it," Mr Harte added before outlining some of the characteristics of the Púca.
"The Púca is a lesser-known character from Irish folklore. He’s like the leprechaun and the banshee in that he’s a solitary figure. The trick he mainly plays is to way-lay travellers coming home from the pub with a few jars in them. Depending on how he likes people, he takes them off to fairyland. Maybe he’s getting a taste of his own medicine.
"He’s an odd-looking fella, there’s no doubt about it. He’s got a bit of a dark streak in him. He’s like a lot of the Irish fairies, he’s kind of an ambiguous character. But I’ve been at pains to explain that he’s not anything pagan or anything like that," Mr Harte said.
He accepted that the people of Ennistymon have voted against the erection of the Púca in their town but feels that decisions around art shouldn’t be decided upon by a public vote.
"It’s not an ideal way to choose art. It empowers organised protesters. They were committed to keeping it out of there from the start. I understand that, it’s their town. There’s no hard feelings on my part," he stressed.
A number of local people also spoke to Drivetime. One said that while he wasn’t afraid of the Púca he felt that the money should have been spent on providing additional public toilets in the town, while another man said he thought it was "paganistic" and that he "didn’t like it. I wouldn’t want it anywhere".