The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland unveils ‘THE BRIDGE: Fiacha Dhubha Fhionglaise ar Foluain (Finglas Ravens Soar)’

A new sculpture for Kildonan Park by Sara Cunningham-Bell created in collaboration with local people in Finglas. 

The seven-metre-tall sculpture comprises two figures with arms raised up, holding high a mirrored steel ‘river rug’ that is threaded through with symbols and signs of Finglas life. Inspired by the Irish translation ‘Fionnghlas’ (clear streamlet), the sculpture draws from the depths of local history, while also reflecting present-day Finglas. 

The central form and choice of materials are informed by feedback from the first phase of public consultation, namely; to acknowledge women’s contribution to community and city life; to create a positive landmark for the neighbourhood – large in scale and made of durable materials; and to create a feeling of ownership and pride in an artwork that celebrates local culture and contributes to a sense of shared identity.

The commissioned sculpture includes a number of historical references from the 9th century Nethercross in St. Canice’s Graveyard, to the ‘Claíomh Solais’ (Sword of Light) designed by local artist, Una Watters to mark the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. It remembers Eliza Wollstonecraft Bishop, an advocate of women’s education in the early 1800s, and Sophie Pierce-Healy, a celebrated aviatrix of the 1920s, flying her plane ‘The Silver Lining’ at Kildonan Aerodrome, Ireland’s first commercial airport. It includes the word, ‘Finglas’ written in the Early Medieval Ogham alphabet, and the Norse black raven, associated with Viking Dublin, is referenced in the sculpture’s title.

The new sculpture includes visual references to the artistic and sporting life of the locality; from the Uilleann Piper, Séamus Ennis and contemporary rap artist, Temper-Mental MissElayneous, to popular sports like hurling, football and boxing and park pastimes, such as running and dog-walking. The outline of faces and figures of local people have been engraved into the body of the sculpture in a gesture that celebrates the ‘unsung heroes’ of everyday life – wives, mothers, parents, grandparents, community activists, care workers – people who symbolise the often invisible and invaluable work that enriches our homes and neighbourhood.

The Kildonan Park commission is a ‘participative’ commission – one that involved local people in the development of ideas for the work and created opportunities for people to get involved in the creative process. Over the past year, hundreds of local residents have engaged with Sculpture Dublin and the Kildonan Park commission by responding to our online surveys, questionnaires and calls for ideas, and by taking part in over 40 creative workshops, focus groups, public meetings and other engagement activities. 

The people who spoke to Sara over the past year gave her the insight and understanding needed to create an artwork that is genuinely responsive, ambitious and powerfully symbolic. They are all present in the sculpture; in its idealism and imaginative scope and in the symbolism of the motifs engraved and woven through its form.

The artist would like to acknowledge the involvement, inspiration and support of the following local people: Ann Ni Anglais, Deirdre Ní Cheallaigh, Bernie Hughes, Mary McDermott, Anne Cully, Linda Emmett, Sheila Smith, Monica Tuite, Mary Morrissy, Annie Jane Freeman, Destiny Freeman, Jane Freeman, Charlie Hope Cregan, Sophie O’Hare, Lacey Fogarty, Shannon Brennan Doyle, Katelyn Gannon, Jenny Doyle, Rosaleen Davis, Sandra Dillon, Claire Behan, Niamh Barry and family of Kevin Barry, Elayne Adamczyk Harrington, Rachael Hegarty, Paula Meehan, Karen Hughes, Rachel Kelly, Ciara Keegan,  Jennifer Dunne, Anna Doran Maggie Brennan, Josie Chaney, Sandra Williams, Paula O’Brien, Teresa Hudson, Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais, Mick McCullagh, Keith Connolly, Des Duffy, Karl Brennan Doyle, Martin Collins, Eric Wearen, Paul McMahon, John Fox, Martin Reilly, Liam O’Ceallaigh, Larry Yourell, James O’Donnell, Harry Fleming, Kevin Smullen, Garry McCarthy, Anthony Connaghan, Joe Hughes, Ernest Beggs, Joe Lynch, George Brennan, Joseph Brennan, Tommy Chaney, Jamie Cregan, David J. Clifford, Lil Red (Sean Hughes), Kevin Smullen, Paul G. Sweeney, Fionn Ó hAlmhain, Garry McCarthy.

The sculpture’s title is a composite: ‘The Bridge’ is drawn from local suggestions, of which there were over 70, and ‘Finglas Ravens Soar’ is inspired by Rachael Hegarty’s poem, ‘Flight Paths Over Finglas’.

Sculpture Dublin would like to thank the following local groups and organisations for their support for this commission over the past year: CDETB Adult Education Service Finglas, Coláiste Eoin, Coláiste Ide , Dublin City Council Culture Company, DCC North West Area Office, Finglas Library, Finglas Garda Station, Finglas Historical Society, Finglas Men’s Shed (and artist, Alan Mongey), Finglas United Youth Football Club, Finglas Youth Service Centre, Forever Young Chorus, GMC Beats Music, Ní Anglais Irish Dancers, Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre , Public Participation Network, The Abigail Women’s Centre, The Avila Park Traveller Men’s Group, West Finglas Tenants & Residents Association. 

Local residents are invited to a public launch of the sculpture in Kildonan Park on Saturday 13 November at 2pm. The event will feature performances by Finglas artists including, Fionn Ó hAlmhain, Elayne Adamczyk Harrington (aka Temper-Mental MissElayneous), Rachael Hegarty, the Ní Anglais Irish Dancers and The Forever Young Chorus.