Groping the Molly Malone statue: ‘I find it disrespectful to our national monument, to the lady’

Campaign started to stop the tradition of people touching the breasts of the Dublin statue for good luck

A campaign, called Leave Molly mAlone, to stop people from touching the breasts of Dublin’s iconic Molly Malone statue on Suffolk Street, has been launched by busker and Trinity College Dublin student Tilly Cripwell.

The 22-year-old often busks beside the statue, and says she decided to launch the campaign after getting tired of watching tourists “reducing her [Molly Malone] to something to objectify, deride and mock,” by touching the breasts of the statue for good luck.

“One of the things I want to raise through this whole campaign is the whole thing about actually questioning things that have become traditions,” Cripwell says.

“A lot of people will go up to the statue and kind of feel a bit embarrassed and laugh when they’re touching her boobs allegedly for good luck, but they don’t really think about why they’re embarrassed, they’re just following the tradition and they think for some weird reason that the act of groping is going to bring them good luck”.


Cripwell says that when she told people she was starting the campaign, she received a positive response.

Passersby were happy to talk about the issue. The breasts of the Molly Malone statue are “getting shinier every day” says Caoimhe Conway, who works in the city centre.

The statue now has visible discolouration.

“There’s a lot of young boys touching them, but each to their own. I won’t be rubbing them on my way past,” she says.

Paddy Elliott, from Blackrock, Co Dublin, says that he feels the damage to the sculpture is more of an issue than it being disrespectful to touch the statue, as “it’s a bit of fun if people are out enjoying themselves,” and sees as lighthearted. But touching the breasts on the statue does not interest him, and he has never done it.

This view is shared by fellow Dubliner Jim Maguire, who passes the statue three or four times every working day.

“I think it’s an abuse of the statue really, stay there, get a photo taken, go for it, no problem, we all do that, but it’s a little bit over the top, the idea of it being good luck. I think it’s a mockery of the statue really,” Maguire says.

“If you want to go get a photo, go down to Temple Bar and get a photograph with a 10 quid pint in your hand, don’t get a photograph with that [the statue], I just find it disrespectful, to our national monument, to the lady”.

Maguire adds that some tour guides encourage tourists to touch the statue’s breasts, which happened on Thursday when this reporter heard a guide tell a group: “I’d like to invite you to touch the left breast, only the left one, because to touch the right one is perverse. If anyone wants to touch the boob, you’re very welcome”.

Nobody in that particular group did.

Frank Monaghan, another Dubliner, suggests that some kind of barrier should be put around the statue to stop people from touching and damaging it, and “destroying our heritage”.

“To touch the breasts or whatever of the statue is in itself disrespectful, I mean, if you touch the arm or whatever, if you want luck from it, that’s fine, but why would you have to touch the breast? That’s very disrespectful in my opinion,” Monaghan says.

Monaghan’s daughter-in-law, Annemarie, visiting from the United States, agrees with him, saying that “it should be observed just like any other historic relic”.

“I think it’s inappropriate for people to be touching the bosom of any woman, just as it would be if there was a male statue like you see in Rome or somewhere to be touching the private areas of any statue. I think it’s inappropriate and disrespectful,” she adds.

Friends and students Sophia Susay-Quinn and Rachel Duddy were also passing by.

“It probably is just reflective of objectifying women; I feel like it does just kind of speak to that a wee bit more. I didn’t really think too much of it, it must just be because it’s so normalised that I haven’t thought about it as much, but when you do question, is there a problem? Then yes, there definitely is,” Susay-Quinn says.

“It is kind of disrespectful in a way,” Duddy says, “and it is ruining the statue when you see it and it just makes you think about consent and things like that.”

Cian Duggan says he has always thought the act of rubbing Molly Malone’s breasts was quite objectifying.

“It’s a little bit disrespectful to someone that I think is probably a cultural icon to us, I walk past this statue every day, there’s lovely people singing here almost daily and yet at the same time a lot of tourists flock to just cop a feel,” Duggan says.

“I make a point of rubbing the wheel every time I go past instead, I see that there’s a bit of a burnish on that as well, and I think it would be nicer if we all just wish for luck that way.”

The statue was spray-painted on numerous occasions in 2023, with one message saying “please don’t” above the breasts while another message said “7 years bad luck.”

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Ellen O’Donoghue

Ellen O’Donoghue

Ellen O'Donoghue is an Irish Times journalist