The restoration of a statue of Ireland’s leading 19th-Century temperance campaigner to Dublin’s O’Connell Street last week has been welcomed by Ireland’s Capuchin community.
The statue of the Tipperary-born Capuchin, Fr Theobald Mathew, who was instrumental in starting Ireland’s Pioneer movement, was removed from the capital’s main thoroughfare in 2016 to facilitate work on the city’s Luas extensions, with Dublin City Council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland having sought a new home for the statue since then.
Describing the statue’s return as “wonderful”, Bro. Richard Hendricks told The Irish Catholic that the process of finding the statue a new home had been “very amicable”.
City transport needs meant the statue could not be returned to its original spot but the plan had always been to have the monument re-erected in a position of similar prominence elsewhere in the city.
About 19 different locations were considered before the decision was made some months ago to return the statue to a new spot on O’Connell Street, he said.
“Fr Mathew is the only figure to be commemorated on the main streets of both Cork and Dublin,” Bro. Richard continued, adding that the statue is O’Connell Street’s only one to have been sculpted by a woman, Mary Redmond, explaining that it was erected by public subscription with unanimous support from Dublin Corporation.
Its original placement at the top of the then Sackville Street was intended to create a kind of symmetry with the O’Connell Monument at the street’s southern end, he said, the Temperance movement and Daniel O’Connell’s Emancipation movement having been Ireland’s two great popular movements in the first half of the 19th Century.
Noting how Fr Mathew had been one of the first Irish people to work ecumenically, Bro. Richard also observed that both he and Dublin ascetic Matt Talbot have important lessons to teach today about the role of Faith in fighting addiction.
“At a time when we’re seeing addiction of all kinds as more and more prevalent, both of these figures remind us that spirituality offers a holistic path to healing – the healing of relationships, of body, of mind, of heart, and of soul, and that perhaps without looking to the spiritual side our healing is imperfect,” he said.