A COMMEMORATIVE sculpture depicting a returning World War I soldier in St Stephen's Green, Dublin has been vandalised with red paint just weeks after its erection.
The six-metre scrap metal installation 'The Hauntings Soldier' suffered "criminal damage" at approximately 2am on Thursday morning, Gardaí confirmed.
The statue has been on display a short distance inside the entrance to St Stephen's Green since November 3 to coincide with the centenary commemorations marking the end of the Great War.
It was created by Slovakian artist Martin Galbavy and constructed by Chris Hannam at Dorset Forge & Fabrication in 2017.
The artwork is due to be on display until November 26 and has attracted huge interest in the weeks since it was erected to honour the 210,000 Irishmen who fought in the First World War – of which between 30,000 and 50,000 perished.
No arrests have yet been made and efforts are underway to remove the paint from the tribute, a Garda spokeswoman said.
A number of Park Rangers and staff from the Office of Public Works (OPW) are involved in the clean-up operation.
Efforts are underway to remove red paint from 'The Haunting Soldier' statue in St Stephen's Green in Dublin after it was vandalised overnight. It was on display to commemorate the end of World War 1 @rtenews pic.twitter.com/O5NJpgA397
— Fergal O'Brien (@FergalOBrienTV) 22 November 2018
Gardaí also remained at the scene this morning.
A spokesperson for OPW confirmed the art installation will remain in St Stephen's Green until this coming Monday as scheduled.
"OPW Staff are in the process of removing the red paint from the Haunting Soldier which was vandalised overnight and this should be completed shortly," they said.
"The Statue will remain on display in St. Stephen’s Green Park until Sunday evening, 26th November before heading back to the UK."
Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, expressed her "disappointment" at the act of vandalism.
She said: "There is no bravery in throwing paint at a statue in the middle of the night.
"This installation honours all those who died in the terrible suffering of World War I. It is incredibly moving and has proved immensely popular."
Former Minister for the Arts, Heather Humphreys, also condemned the vile incident.
Ms Humphreys, who is now Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, said: "The statue in St Stephen's Green was put there to remember the thousands and thousands of young Irish men that were killed in the First World War.
"It is recognition of their sacrifice and it is a tribute to them and their families. I think it's terrible that somebody would see fit to vandalise a beautiful piece of art."