Eileen Mac Donagh’s Sculptures

Left: Ogham Stones 2011. Right: Eyes for you 2018


Make no mistake about it, the Per Cent for Art Scheme (PCAS) introduced in 1986 (for full background see the IAR Summer 2002) has already provided the greatest stimulus for the production of new art since the foundation of the state. Strangely, there has been no publication summarising the huge number of new works of art financed through this scheme, the latest of which, indirectly, is Eileen Mac Donagh’s Eyes For You sculpture installed at the Cairn Homes Belmayne development in north Dublin. Created from Wicklow granite, it measures height 2.900x900x700mm and weighs five tons. Acccording to Dublin City Council, ‘When the planning compliance in relation to the landscape treatment on the open Belmayne space was being considered by Parks and Landscapes Services, it was suggested that the developer incorporate art work into their scheme. Cairn took this on board and in liaison with the Public Arts Office an artist was commissioned by Cairn Homes. The Arts Office offered suggestions of nine artists across a different range of styles for this opportunity and Cairn Homes preferred the work of Eileen Mac Donagh. They approached Mac Donagh directly to commission the work as this was part of their development of the public domain. The proposal was that the sculpture would be paid for by the developer and gifted to the City on handover of the estate.’ So while this was a PCAS style transaction, according to DCC it was not funded through this scheme, but the procedures were fully in line with the National Guidelines for the PCAS.

Eileen Mac Donagh’s work is well known to IAR readers (see the IAR Autumn 2012) since her monumental exhibition at Visual in Carlow in that year. Her wonderful pair of Ogham stones described at that time by Carissa Farrell as ‘standing side by side as though they were bride and groom before the altar. Ogham Stone One, the groom, is marked with even horizontal indentations and stands straight and upright. Ogham Stone Two, the bride, wafts gently, with curvilinear markings and a small golden crown hovering above’. They are now to be seen in the beautiful gardens at Burtown House near Athy.

John Mulcahy is editor of the Irish Arts Review