The Maser mural which two years ago was painted brightly across the front of Project Arts Centre was taken down in 2016 following 50 complaints from pro-life people and a battle of online petitions.
In response to the complaints, Dublin council stated that Project Arts Centre had not followed the proper procedure to get permission from the council and it was removed.
In removing the iconic piece, street art replecating it and using the words “repeal the 8th” quickly spread around the country and the image began to appear on jewelry and clothing.
Only a few short weeks ago the mural was painted back on again, this time with council permission, and it was celebrated by the arts community and the public. On Friday the 20th of April, news came out that the Charities Regulator, a state body and of which the CEO has a long history with the Catholic Church, threatened to take away funding from Project Arts Centre if the mural was not removed again.
It stated that the arts centre was in breach of the Charities Act 2009 as the mural was “political activity”.
In the run up to the Marriage Equality referendum in 2015, Project displayed a mural in support of a Yes vote. The fact that there was no opposition to this clearly shows the hypocrisy and political nature of the removal of the Repeal Mural.
Aside from that, the arguments used by the pro life side are equally hypocritical – they say that they don’t agree with their tax money funding Project Arts Centre if they display a mural calling for a repeal of the 8th amendment.
But tax money from non-catholics goes towards funding church run hospitals and schools with an ethos regarding sexual education, bodily autonomy and the availability of certain forms of contraception that is outdated to the majority of people – the mood for progressing away from the church influence was reflected in the Dáil passing Solidarity’s Sex Education Bill.
Project Arts Centre has played host to other pro-repeal events, such as A Day Of Testimonies by Artists’ Campaign to Repeal, which included short films, an exhibition, a call to action which was broadcast into the streets of Temple Bar, and testimonies read by a number of well known artists, as well as an information stand at which organisations such as the Students Union, Amnesty International and activists gave information on how to argue for repeal.
Other artists, festivals and venues have also shown pro-repeal work and currently Fishamble’s ‘Maz and Bricks’, about a repeal activist and her unlikely friendship with someone she meets on the luas, is touring nationally, without these theatres and arts centres being threatened for their “political activity”.
Yesterday Maser said that the mural was meant to be provocative, and in its removal it does its job even better than by keeping it up.
ROSA organised a protest outside Project Arts Centre and chanted “You can take down a mural but you can’t take down a movement” and highlighted the lies that are spread, unquestioned by state authorities, by the pro-life posters, which shame women who have had abortions.
Ruth Coppinger spoke in the Dáil, quoting Orwell saying “The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude”, and pointing out the quick action taken to ensure a Dáil dress code following Solidarity-PBP TDs wearing Repeal jumpers in the Dáil.
Project Arts Centre made the decision to remove the mural due to their lack of funds to challenge it and because of how heavily arts institutions rely on the funding available to them.
Art is unquestionably political, and the removal of this mural for the second time shows how the establishment can easily attack what they perceive to be threatening.
A key take away from this should be the interest that the establishment has in keeping arts funding low so that it can still be censored through routes that bypass the funding given by the Arts Council, which is an independent body.