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A statue of the Virgin Mary inside a birdcage, without a face, is part of "The Legacy Exhibit" on view at Cork City Hall. Photo by: Via Wikicommons / Michele M. Ferrario

Sculpture of Virgin Mary in Cork outrages Catholic parishioners

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A statue of the Virgin Mary inside a birdcage, without a face, is part of "The Legacy Exhibit" on view at Cork City Hall. Photo by: Via Wikicommons / Michele M. Ferrario

An art exhibit at City Hall showing the Virgin Mary inside a birdcage — without a face and a hole through her head — has prompted calls of complaint to Bishop John Buckley’s office.

The item is part of an exhibition of artwork produced by Chinese and Irish artists in Cork City Hall that opened last month and runs until the end of this month. The Legacy exhibition marks the Chinese New Year and celebrates the important connection between Cork and China.

One of the pieces on show, the sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary, has led to complaints from people offended that she is being shown in a disrespectful light.

A spokesperson for the Diocesan Office confirmed that a “number of calls” had been received complaining about the piece.

The spokesperson told the Cork Evening Echo that Bishop Buckley or the diocesan office would not be commenting further as they had not seen the piece and had only recently become  aware of its existence.

The City Council and the artist behind the piece said there was no intention whatsoever to offend anyone. Artist Michelle O’Shea added that her piece was designed to make people  question inhumane actions by mankind, both past and present.

 “The VM statue embodies all the virtues – beauty, love, grace, forgiveness and so on. Her  faceless features allow one to see the diverse perspectives contained within social, religious,  political and historical influences, dominated by judgment, fear and control,” O’Shea said.

A spokesperson for Cork City Council said the cultural independence and freedom of expression of individual artists was important and strongly endorsed by the council.

“Cork City Council understands that there are a wide range of views and differing opinions of this and indeed of a great deal of art work. This is a purpose of art, to ask people to ponder what they see beyond the surface of the work,” the spokesperson said.

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