Friday, May 29, 2009

New Head

I was passing Fairview Park some time ago when I saw a man with no head. A statue in the park had been decapitated, or had it just fallen off? I decided to investigate.

The remaining body belonged to Seán Russell, a controversial figure in early 20th century Ireland. Surely one of the most hardline republicans of his age. He fought in the war of independence and the civil war and became chief of staff of the IRA in the 1930s, initiated the UK bombing campaign at that time, collaborated with Nazi Germany, and died in a Nazi submarine while on a subersive mission to Ireland with Frank Ryan, in 1940.

I was staggered. This guy was definitely not on my school history curriculum.

The statue was erected in 1951, in Fairview Park, near to where Russell was born. Mary Lou McDonald, Euro MEP and the quintessence of Sinn Féin sex-appeal, spoke at the monument in 2003. The following year, the statue was decapitated by an alleged anti-fascist group, and, for the following four years, it led a headless existence.

The National Graves Association had vowed to replace the statue with a harder-to-decapitate bronze version. And there the matter rested.

I was passing Fairview Park the other day and, lo and behold, I noticed the return of the head.

True to their word, the Association had replaced not only the head but the whole body as well, and in the promised anti-fascist-resistant bronze.

The jacket has been replaced by a long-coat and the copy of An Phoblacht (which surely it must have been) has been replaced by an irregular hat. I can't comment on the facial expression as I never saw the original.

This version of the statue is, however, reminiscent of that of Thomas Davis in College Green. Stubbornly clunky and aesthetically way ahead of its predecessor.

You can read a potted version of Seán Russell's life here. The Wiki version is now out of date, so, if there is anyone out there with experience of updating Wiki, they might do so on the basis of this post.

Click on any of the images above for larger versions.

Update 5/1/2011

Special Branch Report of the inauguration of the original statue. From site of Official Sinn Féin and brought to my attention by that fantastic Dublin blog Come Here to Me.


  1. My good friend Barry McSweeney has drawn my attention to the fact that the the new statue is being launched on this very day.

    If I had fitted the new head with a tracker device I would certainly not alert potential thieves to the fact. The NGA clearly have their collective heads buried in more than sand.

  2. Someone has had another go at the statue, and, as usual, the Irish Times have got their "facts" wrong again.

  3. There is a good update (16/7/2009) from the Chairman of the National Graves Association here.


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