Two sculptures have been unveiled in Dublin in celebration of the life of folk legend, actor and activist, Luke Kelly, by Irish president, Michael D. Higgins. The statues were erected on both sides of the Irish capital, to mark the 35th anniversary of the death of a man who is regarded as one of the country’s greatest folk singers.

Luke Kelly was born in 1940, and died in 1984 aged 43 following the diagnosis of a brain tumour. He was a founding member of the band, The Dubliners, who achieved worldwide fame, and was known for his distinctive singing style and political messages. In a ceremony organised by Dublin City Council, President Michael D. Higgins, unveiled the sculptures accompanied by his wife Sabina. Musicians, including the last remaining original member of The Dubliners, John Sheahan, sang songs made famous by the band.

The president paid tribute to Luke Kelly’s social conscience and his deep affection for the people of Dublin, and praised his “unique ability to re-imagine and reinterpret the traditional music which is identified so strongly with our culture and heritage.” The first sculpture was created by figurative sculptor, John Coll, and is a life-size bronze figure of Luke singing and playing banjo. It was donated to the city by the late Gerry Hunt, a retired architect who considered Luke to be his musical hero.

President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina unveil John Coll’s statue of Luke Kelly on South King Street in Dublin. Image: Mark Maxwell, Maxwell Photography

The second sculpture, a two metre-high marble portrait head of Luke Kelly was created by portrait artist, Vera Klute, and is located on Royal Canal, close to the musician’s birthplace on Sheriff Street. Commissioned by Dublin City Council, it was the winner of a competition that took place in 2014.

President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina with John Coll’s statue of musician Luke Kelly. Image: Mark Maxwell, Maxwell Photography

“Luke’s presence is still felt on the streets of his birthplace, Sheriff Street, and the pubs and haunts of the literati circles around Grafton Street/Baggot Street where he frequented,” says Lord Mayor of Dublin, Nial Ring. “To this day, he inspires Irish and international artists through his words, songs and activism. It is only fitting that we celebrate the man, the music and his immeasurable impact on the Irish music scene and wider Irish culture.”

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