Two Limerick women are facing having to remove a controversial mural honouring a deceased friend from a cottage he gifted them in his will after An Bord Pleanála refused them planning permission for the painting.
The board rejected an appeal by Aoife Kiely and Darlene O’Carroll against the decision of Limerick City and County Council to turn down their application for retention permission for the mural depicting their late friend, Patrick Foley.
The mural features Mr Foley with his dog and an inscription ‘Ar gcara maith’, which translates into ‘our good friend’. It was painted on the gable wall of their home in Nicker, a small village about 20km southeast of Limerick City, on May 12, 2022.
The two women said the mural by an unidentified but renowned artist was commissioned as a tribute to Mr Foley who died in March 2022.
They maintained the scale of the painting, which measures approximately 180cms by 185cms was “unassuming”. Ms O’Carroll insisted their intentions of honouring their long-time friend and popular local man were “at all times genuine and heartfelt”.
She said leaving his home to them in his will reflected the close relationship they had built up with Mr Foley. The appellants also claimed there were no specific provisions in the current county development plan for Limerick in relation to murals.
They argued the mural is passive and does not act as a distraction to road users or detract from the character of the building or streetscape, including a nearby church.
The two women also pointed out that the council had been supportive of larger murals in close proximity to protected structures.
Consultants for the appellants said the two women were “somewhat bemused” that their commemorative gesture had fallen foul of the council’s planning department.
“It is not abstract or offensive and the majority of local people in the village and its environs are supportive of the artwork,” they added.
However, the board said it took the view that the mural was “a visually discordant feature in the streetscape” particularly when viewed from the local church which is a protected structure.
The board also rejected the recommendation of its own planning inspector who claimed the mural did not detract from the visual amenities of the area.
The application had been opposed by several relatives of Mr Foley who claimed no permission or consent for the mural had been obtained from his family. They also said the painting had caused deep emotional distress to his relatives.
Mr Foley’s niece and next of kin, Elaine Holmes, said the executors of her uncle’s estate had requested the two women, who she claimed are renting the property, to remove the mural but they had refused to do so.
“This mural has created deep emotional stress and is extremely insensitive to the late Patrick Foley, his family, friends and neighbours,” said Ms Holmes who lives in Oola, Co. Limerick.
She added: “The mural has created a sense of hysteria in the local community and has become a huge talking point, further creating deeper distress within my family and his friends.”
Other relatives of Mr Foley claimed the occupants had defaced the property with the mural defaming and belittling their late relative who was a very private person. The mural is also the subject of an enforcement notice issued by the local council.