Inspiring 18ft mural of poet adorns Skibbereen street

April 14th, 2018 10:05 PM

By Jackie Keogh

The imposing figure of poet Séan Ó Riordáin looks out from the mural at North Street, Skibbereen, commissioned by West Cork Mental Health Services.

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A NEW 10ft by 18ft mural of the Cork poet Séan Ó Riordáin at North Street in Skibbereen is proving an inspiring addition to the streetscape.

It took the Cork-based artists, Kevin O’Brien and Alan Hurley, just four or five days over a rather wet four-month period to complete the mural of Ó Riordáin who despite a life-long struggle with TB went on to be considered the best Irish language poet since the Famine. 

The work – commissioned by Kevin O’Shanahan, the arts and mental health co-ordinator for the West Cork Mental Health Services – is part of an ongoing arts project at 49 North St, Skibbereen. And, in the words of the poet, it urges people to consider the ‘magical land at the back of the house.’ Kevin O’Brien, who was born in Rosscarbery, but grew up in Bandon before going to Cork to study history and journalism, was already well-known for his involvement in Mad About Cork, a guerrilla garden project.

Mad About Cork began two years ago when Kevin, Alan, and a few more of the core members of the group, would select a derelict site that was in need of some urban rejuvenation. Instead of being a thorn in the side of officialdom, Kevin said Mad About Cork benefited from the support and goodwill of the City Council.

He said: ‘We have a good relationship with them, the councillors and the administrators. They have provided timber for us to make flower boxes, plants and soil.’

Initially, Kevin said the group started out breaking up pallets to make planters for areas of the city that looked the worse for wear. It snowballed from there and now they have successfully completed dozens of projects.

The group, which can attract anything up to 30 volunteers on a Saturday, spends hours transforming run-down sites into something colourful, artistic and functional. 

‘We put money into the projects ourselves,’ said Kevin, ‘but it would be nice to have more sponsors. Anyone who’d like to help out can reach us at or through our Facebook page of the same name.

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