When Street Art is a Crime, sure the Guards are Just Doing their Job

Street artist gettting cautioned by Gardai on Eyre Square todayStreet artist gettting cautioned by Gardai on Eyre Square today

Street art adds to the city, takes up minimum space, in my humble opinion. But there is always one pain who will ring the cops, put them in an impossible to win situation, such as today.

At the top of Eyre Square, a few times over the past few weeks, a talented chalk artist has been decorating the street with images from everything from Lord of the Rings, to birdlife. None of it is offensive to anyone, give if you want, or walk on by.

Then, there was a few visitors, who were not donating money. The guards.

This man was photographing or videoing the guards cautioning the street artist. I'm not sure is he council official or what. I doubt he is on the side of the common people.

This man was photographing or videoing the guards cautioning the street artist. I’m not sure is he council official or what. I doubt he is on the side of the common people.

A third, unknown, bystander

There was a third, unidentified bystander, who seemed to be videoing the event. Or at least photographing it. He seemed to be with the Guards from the vantage point I saw them at. It was his filming / photographing that attracted my attention.

So. out of journalistic interest, I got a shot too. Went down to meet friends who were watching the Brazil / Belgium match, intending to drop by later to chat to the artist for The Eye.

A friendly word with a friendly artist

I called on by to the artist, and introduced myself as writing for The Eye, and that I might write a bit about the event. Complimenting him on his street art, I explained how i lived street art and busking. I asked was he cautioned, what was the caution for, and what was his feelings about it.

He said the guards were grand, they were by the book, and the first part of the caution seemed to be about a bottle of wine wrapped in a brown paper bag he was drinking from.

Drinking in public bylaw enforcement we may have mixed feelings on. You can sit outside a pub, get locked, cause trouble, but your not breaking it. But do not be where a capitalist is making money from your presence and drink, your a criminal.

Again, there is a merit in this, for public safety, but this chap was no danger to anyone or himself. Common sense should be shown. The reason it was wrapped in the brown paper, was to comply with his impression of the law. I didn’t even know what the drinking in public law is in Galway, so its a public information issue as opposed to him causing bother.

However, it didn’t seem to stop at that, there was issue with the street drawing too. He explained its art and so on, and they seemed to let him keep it on the street.

Street art adds to the city

Street art adds to the city. It should be encouraged. Someone earns a few quid. Walkers by like me enjoy it. Commissioned works like the one beside O’ Connell’s Bar have their place, as do transient works, as chalk wash’s off the drawing when the rains come.

If people annoy the police calling it graffiti, they should be told to sod off. If you want to see graffiti that offends, head on up St. Patrick’s Avenue, see the homophobic graffiti and the swastikas drawn by some moron on the church walls.

But there is no police there. For either that, the public drinking, or the anti social behavior that plagues areas like it. It needs to be cleaned up. Its shameful.

A bit of cop on needed

The guards in Galway do a good job. But those with influence in the business community should not be allowed to influence them to harass those a certain class do not like. Like the homeless guy I met outside Costa Coffee at the bottom of Quay Street.

I didn’t really meet him. I passed by as he was talking to our friendly cops, the lady telling him “if you are seen later on you WILL be taken to the police station”. A foreign national, maybe Romany, maybe not, could have done with a place in a hostel, not a police caution.

There were a few more up around St Nicholas Cathedral, in times of old, being inside the railings would have made them safe from harassment. But business laws apply now. Not Brehon laws. Appearance is everything, and the homeless cant be seen by the tourists, so must be moved on.

Maybe they will be left in peace, as it is not a main street. Maybe not. The homeless situation needs sorting. COPE do a great job. But a wet hostel is needed too as well as the dry one we have. The church could open some building for passing people who sleep rough like those at Nicholas Cathedral. The churches could work together on this.

Homeless, Street Artists, the crime of being poor

As I write this, the homeless situation has not improved much. Unseen, are those who lost their homes to banks, as the Eye reported in September, there are around 100 children without a home to call their own as a result.

No police cautions for those who caused that problem. One in jail. A lad who did a tax fiddle on imported garlic got as long a sentence.

Again, the guards do a great job. Its how they are abused to serve an agenda. They should stand up to those who pressure them on this. Keep doing the great policing. Have a bit of common sense as regards public drinking. A sober artist having a dram does not deserve the same treatment as someone langered and a danger to all around them.

About the Author

Thomas Carty
Thomas Carty is a Renmore resident, having moved to Galway for work a couple of years ago. Both his parents were originally from Ballinalee in Co. Longford but he grew up in Banagher and maintains his Offaly connections with membership of the poetry group Tullamore Rhymers Club. An amateur genealogist and historian, he writes on a range of topics that grab his interest. He works at security to pay the bills, and travels widely around Europe to keep sane!