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Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 3°C
# Two Lukes
'He lives on': Two Luke Kelly statues unveiled in Dublin city
President Michael D Higgins said that “Luke never failed to convey the human…it is an important day in the cultural life of Ireland.”

Luke Kelly statues unveiled PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

TWO STATUES OF folk singer Luke Kelly have been unveiled in Dublin this afternoon by President Michael D Higgins.

The first sculpture – a bronze statue by sculptor John Coll, who also created the Patrick Kavanagh statue along Dublin’s Grand Canal – was unveiled at South King Street. 

A large crowd gathered for today’s unveiling which featured musical accompaniment by Dubliner John Sheahan and musicians Damien Dempsey and Glen Hansard. 

Leading the tributes to the Dubliners legend this afternoon, Higgins described Kelly as “an artist who left a profound footprint on Ireland’s musical landscape” before the crowd, which had gathered prior to the 2.30pm unveiling, joined Sheahan and Dempsey in a rendition of ‘Dublin in the Rare Auld Times’ followed by ‘The Night Visiting Song’ sung by Hansard. 

0473 Luke Kelly_90563232 Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

In his speech, President Higgins said that ”Luke never failed to convey the human…it is an important day in the cultural life of Ireland.”

Kelly, Higgins said, had “a unique ability to reimagine and reinterpret the traditional music which was experiencing a revival” during the 1960s and 1970s. 

“The unveiling of his image as part of the public art of Dublin and the nation is a public recognition and an affirmation of the great admiration and affection with which Luke Kelly continues to be held, across the country but most especially here in his native Dublin, and those from abroad who will be familiar with Luke and The Dubliners can re-engage by visiting his statues.”

Kelly was born in 1940 and grew up in Sheriff Street in Dublin’s north inner city. One of the original members of The Dubliners, formed in 1962, his powerful singing voice marked him out as one Ireland’s finest folk singers until his death in 1984 aged 43. 

His best-known recordings include ‘On Raglan Road’, ‘The Auld Triangle’ and ‘The Rocky Road To Dublin’. 

Independent councillor Christy Burke had been calling for a statue of Kelly since 2004. When, in 2016, the council pursued a tribute by commissioning portrait artist Vera Klute to design a sculpture, it was offered a second sculpture by the late Gerry Hunt. 

In the end, despite breaking its own rules around commissioning, the council accepted Hunt’s donation.

That donation – Coll’s bronze sculpture of a seated Kelly – was unveiled at South King Street this afternoon. Klute’s large marble head was unveiled shortly after 3.30pm at Kelly’s native Sheriff Street.

Lord Mayor Nial Ring paid tribute today to those who’d gathered from outside Dublin for the unveilings.”Luke Kelly represented everything that’s good about Dublin,” said Ring. “He lives on.”

A tribute concert this evening, featuring Sheahan, Hansard and fellow musicians, is set to take place at Liberty Hall at 8pm. 

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