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Thursday 28 September 2023 Dublin: 13°C
# portobello
Savita mural artist: 'I've been painting a long time, I've never seen a reaction like that before'
Street artist ACHES says he’s going to cover up the word “FREED” that someone wrote across her forehead.

Updated at 12.26pm

Artist AchesSource: Aoife G/@anygafs

THE ARTIST WHO created the mural of Savita Halappanavar in Portobello has said that he's "overwhelmed" by the reaction to the piece.

And it is now hoped that the original notes can be sent to Savita's parents in India.

Dublin street artist ACHES had planned to paint a mural on that particular space for some time. The Bernard Shaw pub, which owns the wall, said the space was free from 21 May, but ACHES wasn't available until 24 May, he told

"I wasn't going to paint anything related to the campaign, it was just because I was doing it the day before, I thought I should really do something about the referendum."

He said that the final design to paint what he did was "a last minute decision". He says that although he usually stays away from political themes in his work, he said he felt quite strongly about this.

"When Savita passed away I was still a teenager and I was probably pro-life before that, I'd never really thought about it before and thought [abortion] wasn't needed."

Art is a good way to show what you believe in.

He said that her case had prompted him to think about it over the past 6 years.

In total, it took ACHES four hours to paint the mural between 1pm and 5pm on the day before the referendum. He said he chose the colour red because in the picture he was working from, she was wearing a red and orange dress.

"In other portraits I do I wouldn't do them in realistic colours," he said.

ACHES worked with Maser on the 'U ARE ALIVE *' mural which is a well-known piece of art just a few minutes away from his Savita piece on South Richmond Street. Maser has also created a Yes-campaign related mural - the blue and red 'Repeal the 8th' heart made famous after its removal from a building in Templebar.

Ireland abortion laws Niall Carson Niall Carson

After finishing the mural, ACHES visited it the next day, after columnist and active Yes campaigner Una Mullally had left a bouquet of flowers following the casting her vote.

He then flew to London for a project. Over the course of the weekend, he said he was sent pictures of the mural as the number of tributes, flowers and notes around it grew. He said he wasn't expecting the huge reaction.

I've been painting a long time, and I've never seen anything like that before.

Ireland abortion laws PA Wire / PA Images Candle and flowers are placed in front of a mural of Savita Halappanavar . PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

On Tuesday night, he landed back in Dublin, and almost immediately visited the mural.

It's crazy to see, I really wasn't expecting that. It's good to see people interacting with it.

He read a few of the notes and took pictures of some of them.

On Saturday night, someone had written "FREED" and drawn a heart and an arrow across Savita's forehead in the painting. When asked what he thought of this, ACHES replied that he thought it was disrespectful.

"I thought it was disrespectful to both Savita and the mural. There was plenty of space around the mural to write it. I don't know what they thought they were doing."

He said he's going to fix it, and it "shouldn't take too long".

I'm used to people drawing on murals when they're in public spaces. What I paint, I don't expect to last.

ACHES says that there might be plans to "dismantle and move" the piece.

"I don't think it will last in that spot, more people would draw on it, but I'm not sure where else it would go."

To preserve the mural, there are plans to archive the notes by photographing them.

In a statement to TheJournal.ieDublin City Library and Archive said that it has commissioned a photographer to take photographs of the mural and notes yesterday.

Volunteers with Together For Yes have taken down the notes to prevent any further weathering.

Once they have been digitally preserved, it is hoped that the original copies will be sent to India to be kept by Savita's parents, Fergal O’Sullivan said.

The original mural has been taken down and put into storage by The Bernard Shaw pub, although it is unclear where it will be displayed next. / YouTube

Among the notes left by people were slogans and sentiments of the Yes campaign, including "Trust women", "Our bodies, our choice", and "Never again".

One of the notes read: "For Savita, you made us fight. Never again."

Additional reporting by Nicky Ryan

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