By Jonathan deBurca Butler
The west side of Merrion square in Dublin 2 has been undergoing somewhat of a facelift in recent weeks and months with the imminent unveiling of a new memorial to the Defence Forces and commencement of restoration on an 18th century fountain.
The unveiling of the memorial, which is being erected to honour members of the Defence Forces who have died in service, was originally pencilled in for June.
However, the complexity of the structure has led to delays in the realisation of the project and it is now set to be presented to the public by the Minister of Defence, Willie O’Dea and President Mary McAleese next Saturday, November 8th.
The monument itself, designed by the artist, Mr. Brian King, is a pyramid standing 3 metres high made primarily of granite slabs resting on a steel frame and interspaced with toughened glass panels. Inside the structure, which has just been completed at a cost of €175,000, are four bronze figures in relief representing members of the Defence Forces.
In a statement to the Sunday Independent a spokesperson for the Department of Defence said: “The National Memorial to members of the Defence Forces will provide a place for contemplation and remembrance, where families, relatives and members of the public can reflect on the contribution and sacrifice made by members of the Defence Forces who died in the service of the State.”
Mr King’s design was chosen in March 2007 following an open tender competition in which more than 30 artists from across Europe applied. Mr. King studied at the National College of Art and Design, where he became a lecturer and was head of its sculpture department between 1984 and 2004. He is well known for typically large-scale geometric pieces incorporating the use of metals.
Just a few metres down from the new memorial, scaffolding has been erected for the cleaning and part restoration of the Rutland fountain. Dating from 1792, the fountain, designed by Francis Sandys, is a commemoration of the Duke of Rutland, Charles Manners who commissioned the piece before his untimely death at the age of thirty-three.
In its full glory, water poured from the two bronze lion heads on either side and from the small central conduit water flowed into a large stone conch shell at the base of the fountain. Many of the figures in the roundels that adorn the fountain have been vandalised and damaged since its building over 200 years ago and the water element has been cut off.
None of these features are expected to be resurrected but the work is being done in order to preserve what is left of the monument.
The clean up is being undertaken by Dublin based company, Interclean on behalf of the Dublin City Council at a cost of approximately €230,000 and is expected to be finished before Christmas.
Interclean has been responsible for many successful restorations in the past including the cleaning of the Bank of Ireland, College Green and the façade of Trinity College, Dublin.