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Dubliners Have Their Own Names for Monuments

November 28, 1989

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) _ Ireland puts its male statues on pedestals. The female images are displayed at street level, then the wits go to work at shredding what dignity remains.

Dublin’s bronze women are familiarly known as ″The Tart with the Cart,″ ″The Hags with the Bags,″ and ″The Floozie in the Jacuzzi.″

The statues, which have appeared in the past two years, are accessible, street-level images intended to make amends for the past male bias in the capital’s public sculpture.

The ″Hags,″ resting on a bench beside their bronze shopping bags at the foot of the Ha’penny Bridge, are two anonymous shoppers.

The ″Tart″ is a well-built lass inspired by sweet Molly Malone, who ″wheeled her wheelbarrow, through streets broad and narrow, crying ’Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, o 3/8‴

The ″Floozie,″ recumbent in flowing streams, represents the River Liffey, recalling James Joyce’s ″Anna Livia.″ But ″Floozie″ she is, and much more.

Ailbhe Smyth, writing in The Irish Review, catalogued other aliases: ″Bidet Mulligan,″ ″The Skivvy in the Sink,″ ″Anorexia,″ ″Anna Livia Plurability,″ and, scandalously, ″The Whore (pronounced ‘hoor’) in the Sewer.″

Ms. Smyth, a lecturer at University College and head of the Women’s Studies Forum, detected ″a sign of difficulty and fragmentation but also of possibility,″ and ″the singular diversities and diverse singularities of Irish women.″

″Dubliners have appropriated the monument in their midst through a multiple re-naming game, manifestly pleasurable, which reverberates with a plurality of significations, often contradictory (but ‘dreams go by contraries’) infinitely translating travesty,″ she explained.

Anna Livia may be the most abused by the wits, but recent letters to The Irish Times indicate Molly Malone, who stands at the foot of the Grafton Street shopping strip and opposite Trinity College, is more controversial.

Letter of Sept. 21: ″Simply public sculpture at its worst.″

Letter of Sept. 22, from the Dublin City Center Business Association: ″Its unwelcome imposition ...″

Letter of Oct. 2, from the sculptor Jean Rynhart: ″Breasts would not have shocked 17th century Dubliners. ... Molly’s healthy diet of fish, and strenuous daily exercise routine pushing approximately 3 hundredweight around, would have assisted her development into a fine strong girl. ... She is a Restoration citizen placed accurately in 17th century Dublin.″

Letter of Oct. 7: ″Is not the design of Molly Malone’s barrow . .. completely wrong? Up to 10 years or so ago a coster’s barrow was of a design specific to Dublin. It was of wicker construction with three wooden wheels with steel tires.″

Letter of Oct. 9: ″A masterpiece in the classical mode.″

Letter of Oct. 12: ″How do we know that Molly was Church of Ireland and not Roman Catholic; how do we know that she was a ‘Restoration citizen’ and not of the 18th or 19th centuries?″

Ms. Rynhart, the sculptor, has proposed statues of Joyce, W.B. Yeats and Oscar Wilde. You can almost hear the brainwheels turning.

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