President Higgins pays tribute to Luke Kelly as two statues unveiled in Dublin

President Higgins pays tribute to Luke Kelly as two statues unveiled in Dublin

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins praised Luke Kelly for reviving interest in traditional Irish music as he unveiled two statues of the musician.

The sculptures were unveiled in Dublin today on the 35th anniversary of Kelly’s death.

President Higgins and his wife Sabina unveil John Coll’s Luke Kelly sculpture at South King Street (Image: Sam Boal /

“Luke’s role was such a pivotal one, not only in the regeneration and invigoration of Irish traditional music but in its sharing with the public and thus inspiring a new generation to embrace this important element of our rich culture and heritage,” said the President.

“It is in no small way due to the talent of Luke Kelly and The Dubliners that a renewed interest in our traditional Irish ballads occurred during the 1960s and 1970s amongst a younger generation of Irish people, an interest that continues to gain strength and wider audiences today.”

Lord mayor Nial Ring (first left) joins the President at the Royal Canal unveiling (Image: Sam Boal /

A life-size bronze statue of a seated Luke Kelly singing and playing the banjo was unveiled on South King Street.

Created by sculptor John Coll, who also created the city’s Patrick Kavanagh and Brendan Behan statues, it was donated to the city by the late Gerry Hunt.

(Image: Sam Boal /

The second statue, a marble head of Kelly, was created by portrait artist Vera Klute and is situated at the Royal Canal near Guild Street and Sheriff Street.

The two-metre tall piece was unanimously selected in 2014 as the winner of a competition established by then Lord Mayor of Dublin, Christie Burke.

(Image: Sam Boal /

The statues are close to his Sheriff Street birthplace and the musician’s haunts around Grafton Street and Baggot Street.

Their location was important in remembering the inspiration Kelly drew from his surroundings and the legacy he left, said Higgins.

Musicians Glen Hansard (third left) and John Sheahan (second right) perform at the South King Street launch (Image: Sam Boal /

“Luke’s music was, of course, deeply influenced itself by the community and the working-class Dublin in which he grew up – a Dublin where children were ‘reared on songs and stories’, and music was an intrinsic part of daily life,” said the President.

“The Kelly families of today are continuing that unique contribution, sharing their talents, their excellence of performance with us all, and doing so with a generosity that is the mark of the Kelly family.”

Lord Mayor Nial Ring with President Higgins and his wife Sabina (Image: Sam Boal /

He added: “Today is an important day in the public cultural life of Ireland.

“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.”