DANNY DEVENNY – The Birth of the Irish Republic memorial mural
At The Ambassador Theatre, O’Connell St, Dublin. Opens 27th February, 2016.
Belfast artist Danny Devenny is responsible for some of the most powerful and provocative murals painted during the Northern Ireland Troubles. His latest project is a memorial – a mural interpretation inspired by Robert Ballagh’s iconic painting ‘The Birth Of The Irish Republic’ which tells of that defining moment in Dublin’s GPO.
“When you’re close to someone, you forget how much of a genius they are”, Devenny says of his friend Robert Ballagh. “He’s my friend, so I never thought about it until I first saw the painting, I got what he was trying to do, he was bringing that old image at the GPO into the modern age. To be recognised and warmed to by a younger generation.”
Devenny’s experiences during the 1970s as a paramilitary prisoner in Long Kesh, forged his understanding of how to communicate an ideology and struggle through art with very limited resources.
“I was there with the people who discussed and planned where this little island was going”, says Devenny. “We called it the ‘University of Freedom’, so Bobby Sands would have been one of my best friends there. We talked and planned about how the future could be”.
The living conditions and allowances afforded to Republican prisoners in Long Kesh was in stark contrast to what their comrades were experiencing in British prisons and this was fully appreciated by Devenny and his cell mates.
“Our comrades in British prisons were not only being brutalised and tortured by the regime – ordinary English prisoners hated them too. Here we were, sitting in Long Kesh, visitors coming to see us every week”.
In an show of solidarity for their comrades in England, the Long Kesh group wrote to newspapers while Devenny began to design posters illustrating their brutal prison conditions. Danny’s illustrations and posters were then smuggled out through cardboard laundry boxes, printed externally by Sinn Féin for public use (the video above features some of those publications).
A fitting location for the exhibition, the Ambassador Theatre was formerly the Rotunda Rink and dates back to 1764. It was here on 25 November 1913 that the Irish Volunteers held a mass meeting and many volunteers who took part in the 1916 Rising signed up.
During the 1916 Rising, the Ambassador was the backdrop for the famous image of British Soldiers posing with the captured Irish Republic flag held upside down and inside out. Beside the building is where the captured rebels from the GPO and Four Courts garrisons were held out overnight at the front of the Rotunda.
REVOLUTION 1916 – The Original & Authentic Exhibition in the Ambassador Theatre O’Connell St., Dublin opens 27 February, 2016.
Tickets for the exhibition, priced from €15, with concessions, are available now through Ticketmaster.