A statue of Hollywood star Maureen O'Hara was removed within 48 hours of its installation in her adopted home of Glengarriff in west Cork after its sculptor requested the county council remove it due to criticism online, the council has said.
Cork County Council confirmed that it agreed to remove the life-size statue of O'Hara, who starred in The Quiet Man alongside John Wayne, after sculptor Don Cronin asked to have the statue taken down because of the negative criticism it was generating.
“Cork County Council regrets that following persistent distressing negative online commentary about the installation, as has been reported by local and national media, the artist indicated that it was his preference to remove the statue and refuse the commission,” said the council in a statement.
“The council is disturbed that inappropriate anonymous online commentary has become a prevalent and unfair means to respond to community projects such as this… And sincerely regrets the distress which the artist and his family have experienced due to his participation in this project.”
The council also said it was mindful of the impact of what it described as “the online violation of the reputation of a well-known, respected, talented local artist” before defending Mr Cronin’s work which was installed in late April in the heart of the popular tourist village.
According to the council’s spokeswoman, it was satisfied that Mr Cronin’s bronze sculpture was “a good representation of a youthful Maureen O’Hara, had artistic merit and was appropriate for installation in a public place”.
She said the idea for the statue came about as a result of a request from Glengarriff Tourism and Development Association that the council apply for funding under the town and village renewal scheme for a life-size bronze art installation to commemorate O'Hara.
The group posted on its Visit Glengarriff page: “the statue was removed today. We don’t have any further information at this point, but we will let you know about how our beloved Maureen is going to be remembered in the village in the long term.”
According to the Irish Mirror, more than 1,000 people posted comments about the statue – which was commissioned by Cork County Council at a cost of €33,000 – with many of the commentators criticising the statue for the manner in which it represented O’Hara.
One person called it “an insult to the people of Glengarriff” and another called for it to be melted down and for the process to start again as the statue does her a “disservice”, while a third suggested a bench with a plaque would be a more appropriate way to remember O’Hara in the village.
A native of Ranelagh in Dublin, O'Hara trained at the Abbey Theatre before moving to Hollywood in 1939 when she starred in Alfred Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn with Charles Laughton, opposite whom she also played Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame which earned her a contract with RKO Pictures.
She was to have a long career in Hollywood, appearing in How Green was My Valley, The Black Swan, The Spanish Main and Sinbad the Sailor as well as the Christmas classic, Miracle on 34th Street and Rio Grande, opposite John Wayne.
But it was opposite Wayne in John Ford's romantic comedy drama The Quiet Man, shot in Cong, Co Mayo in 1952, that most endeared her to Irish audiences with her performance as the feisty red-haired Mary Kate Danaher who proves more than a match for Wayne's Sean Thornton.
O'Hara began holidaying in Glengarriff and began spending more time there following the death of her third husband, aviation pioneer Charles F Blair, in a plane crash in 1978 and in 1984 she established a golf tournament in the west Cork village in his memory .
She moved permanently to Glengarriff in 2005 but in 2012 she moved back to the US to live with her grandson, and she died in her sleep at her home in Boise, Idaho on October 24th, 2015, from natural causes at the age of 95.
The negative reaction to Mr Cronin's statue of O'Hara comes after the sculptor received a positive response to several public commissions from Cork County Council including one of a bull in Macroom.