Row over Rathfriland artwork site

A ROW has erupted over the proposed location for a piece of artwork in the Square in Rathfriland.

The “Luck Penny”, an art project co-ordinated by the council, Mourne Heritage Trust, Rathfriland Regeneration Company and the Historical Society, is due to be located where the Christmas tree is normally placed each year.

A public consultation held in October last year saw agreement by local councillors, community representatives and Roads Service to move the tree to make way for the artwork.

But concerns have been raised about the relocation of the Christmas tree beside the War Memorial in the Square with some saying it is inappropriate.

Knockiveagh council candidate Glenn Barr said he had spoken to local people who were opposed to the idea of the tree’s relocation.

“The public doesn’t want it moved to the War Memorial which is good enough for me,” said Mr Barr.

“This memorial is there for all the people of the District who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in fighting tyranny.”

A council spokesperson however said the decision to move the tree was supported by the British Legion and passed by the council.

“The proposed new location for the Christmas tree at the other end of the square has been agreed with the British Legion and fully ratified by Council,” said the council spokesperson.

“We are currently looking at options to provide additional Christmas ‘interest’ in the area around the sculpture; however no project has been approved as yet.”

UUP candidate Mr Barr also made reference to the cost of the artwork and said it was unfair that ratepayers will be asked to subsidise it in the current economic climate.

“People of Rathfriland and the surrounding areas are not against this because it’s to showcase the proud heritage of Rathfriland,” said Mr Barr. “They just feel that in the current financial climate £25,000 could have been better spent.

“The fact is that the ratepayers have to subsidise this to the sum of £1,333 as well as the upkeep of it.”

The council spokeswoman explained that Banbridge District Council contributed £1,333 - alongside Newry and Mourne and Down councils - which will fund not only the “Luck Penny” but also artwork at Corbet Lough and Peter Morgan’s Cottage at Finnis.

“This money was used to engage and consult with the local community and for selected artists to produce models to facilitate the selection process for all three areas,” said the spokeswoman.

“The Luck Penny piece has been designed to be low maintenance with upkeep requiring only an occasional power wash. It is normal practice that the council would undertake maintenance of anything that is installed should it be signage, planters or public art,” she added.