2016, we took the time to consider what was next for us. We decided to take our vision more seriously and levelled up. 2017, we painted murals at unprecedented scale and volume. This triggered multiple Investigations by our City Council. 2018, we proposed a framework for public art. This was met with intolerance so we launched the Grey Area project. This resulted in Enforcement. 2019, we became more adept with the inner workings of city development. This resulted in Prosecution. 2020, we took time to reflect and reconsider what is important. 2021, we experimented with galleries, collaborations, meanwhile uses and invested time in education. This resulted in a change in mindset. 2022, we entered a period of metamorphosis. This resulted in destitution. The below is a brief overview of our current state of affairs. Relevant excerpts; Planning & Development Regulations 2001 – 2021: Part 2 (Exempted Development):
“(1) (c) (a) (b) (ii) “painting” includes any application of colour” Schedule 2 / Part 1 (Exempted Development):
“The painting of any external part of any building or other structure.”
“Such painting may not, except in the case of a hoarding or other temporary structure bounding land on which development consisting of works is being or will be carried out in pursuance of a permission granted under Part III of the Act or as exempted development, be for the purposes of creating a mural.” There is no definition of a mural in the Planning & Development Regulations.
Planning & Development Act 2000: Section 2: “unauthorised development” means, in relation to land, the carrying out of any unauthorised works (including the construction, erection or making of any unauthorised structure) or the making of any unauthorised use”
“unauthorised use” means, in relation to land, use commenced on or after 1 October 1964, being a use which is a material change in use of any structure or other land”
“works” includes any act or operation of construction, excavation, demolition, extension, alteration, repair or renewal and, in relation to a protected structure or proposed protected structure, includes any act or operation involving the application or removal of plaster, paint, wallpaper, tiles or other material to or from the surfaces of the interior or exterior of a structure. Section 3: (1) In this Act, “development” means, except where the context otherwise requires, the carrying out of any works on, in, over or under land or the making of any material change in the use of any structures or other land. There is no definition of a mural in the Planning & Development Act. Arts Act 2003: ““arts” means any creative or interpretative expression (whether traditional or contemporary) in whatever form, and includes, in particular, visual arts, theatre, literature, music, dance, opera, film, circus and architecture, and includes any medium when used for those purposes” There is no definition of a mural in the Arts Act. -- “Mural” – “a painting or other work of art executed directly on a wall” – Oxford Languages. “Painting” – “the action or skill of using paint, either in a picture or as decoration” – Oxford Languages. -- Presumption Of Innocence is the cornerstone of the criminal justice system. The accused is presumed innocent until proved guilty. The burden of proving this guilt is on the prosecution and it must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Due Process in a prosecution ensures that all legal rights of the accused are respected. Three of our murals were before the District Court in a series of criminal prosecutions. Having exhausted attempts at alternative resolutions, and given the vigour with which the City Council had pursued the proceedings, it was our intention to contest the allegations. With a view to the ruling setting legal precedent and providing clarity on the issues at the heart of the matter. These matters were due for a two day hearing on the 16/06/22 and considerable resources were invested in the preparation of the defence. On the 01/06/22 we were informed that the City Council also intended on making applications to the Circuit Court, if the murals already before the District Court were not removed on the 15/06/22. If this timeline had of been complied with, the removal of the murals would have impacted the hearing scheduled for the following day. You could be forgiven for thinking this a tactical decision given the timing. Then, after years of gruelling and protracted process and procedure, on the 02/06/22 we were notified that the prosecution intended to vacate the District Court hearings and have the proceedings struck out. Although we did not consent to this, their application was granted. We requested an explanation from the prosecution as to how and why their decision was reached, however we were informed that they were not obliged to provide one. Again you could be forgiven for thinking this a tactical decision given the timing. We believe the prosecution did not envision that the proceedings would ever reach a hearing. When it eventually dawned on them that they would be required to prove their allegations beyond a reasonable doubt, they sought to change the field of play - to one substantially more expensive and onerous for all involved in the proceedings. You could also be forgiven for thinking this decision could have been based upon their necessity to rely on their own process and procedure as evidence, evidence that may not have been without fault. Both the grounds for prosecution and the forum for the hearing were decided by the prosecution from the outset. They may be within their rights to proceed as they did, but we believe it gives rise to the question of whether there was an element of bad faith in their use of process, and whether or not we received the right to a fair trial. But what do we know. -- Throughout this ordeal we were repeatedly, and to a degree understandably, told that we were wasting our time taking on an adversary with such deep pockets and wide reaching influence. This only served to make us even more steadfast in our position and emboldened our belief in the necessity to stand our ground. For us this has and will always be about speaking truth to power. However after the District Court ruling we were so deflated that we decided to extend an olive branch and make one last attempt to reach a resolution, with the intention of avoiding another costly and time consuming legal battle. By this stage we should have known what we were dealing with, alas we embarked on yet another wild goose chase. Kindness yet again mistaken for weakness. Never again. When discussions fell apart it reignited our passion, regardless of the resulting persecution.
We have made attempts to discuss the overriding aspects of the situation with a variety of institutions and bodies: Ministers, President’s Office, Secretary General, Department Of Justice, LGMA, CCMA to name but a few. All to no avail. So we decided to invest more time in our own research to gain access to all relevant information. Areas of particular interest have been the Part 8 Process for Local Authorities and Section 4(1)(f) of the Planning & Development Act 2000. We decided to submit several FOI requests in an attempt to increase our awareness of all factors at play, who would have thought that this process would also be inordinately complex, you could again be forgiven for thinking the complexity was tactical. Thankfully in certain circumstances there are also several options and bodies at the disposal of our citizens to instigate a review of the systems in which these matters have unfolded: Ethics Registrar, Ombudsman, Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, Standards In Public Office, Office of the Planning Regulator and Judicial Review. All interesting for different reasons and commendable for the work that they do to ensure that there is no impropriety or misconduct in public bodies. At the end of the day our primary focus is the implementation of proper planning and sustainable development, without which our city and society is at a loss. It has been a pleasure conversing with the Irish Council of Civil Liberties whom have opened our eyes to a whole host of information: Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation, Public Interest Law Alliance and Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. Not to mention their introductions to a global network of art law and free speech lawyers. Which opened our eyes to the European Court of Human Rights. All a learning curve. -- Who knows, if the civil proceedings do come to pass we might petition the Circuit Court to kick it up to the High Court and represent ourselves. If this situation does lead to our demise then we’re going to do everything in our limited and remaining power to highlight the hypocrisy of bureaucracy. And at this stage, for anyone out there who considers us hypocrites because of some self admittedly garbage commercial works over the years, ask yourself – what would you do to protect a vision and keep it alive? What have you done to feed the family and keep the lights on? Those without sin. We’ll be sharing what could end up being our last series of murals and body of work over the coming weeks. The intention of which is to highlight the lack of clarity and cohesion within the existing legislation, who it is that gets to determine the classifications within it and to explore the associated ramifications of these decisions. The introduction of a Public Art Bill will follow shortly thereafter with a view to the Dáil scheduling a vote on what is proposed for some stage in 2023. Further details will be uploaded to the Public Art tab in the coming weeks. For those interested keep an eye on the Game and Store tabs, they’ll be updated as soon as (if we get that far) we’re ready to release the first iteration of the game and our range of physical and digital works and merch. Proceeds from which will support The Digital Arts Council (digital art fund) and The Dark Arts Council (a public art Not For Profit fund). More details on both of these outlets will be available through the site at a later date. -- We have sacrificed everything for this life. We eat, breathe and don’t sleep it. Ten years deep. Not yet dead, barely alive and still thriving.