The Ros Tapestry Lovers

Michelle Obama Views  Ros Tapestry Panel at Farmleigh May 2011

After a long delay, the press has described recently the horrible situation of 35000 single mothers who were obliged to abandon their children in different homes managed by religious congregations, and, due to malnutrition and lack of care, many of them were dying as children. Eight hundred bodies were found in a mass grave!

Approximately at the same period it was well known in the County of Wexford, that hundreds of children were sexually abused in different schools, again managed by religious authorities, in which the state had responsibility. Recently the present pope admitted that that situation was a shame. During decades these crimes were continuing without any strong campaign from the population or the political authorities!

The local justice and even the High Court of Ireland gave an example of the “laissez-faire” of the authorities very recently. A courageous woman, abused as a child, didn’t receive the recognition she asked after her claim before these honourable Institutions. But, fortunately, the European High Court finally gave her that recognition.

We could expose other similar or much less dramatic events. However, as we will see, all dramatic or much less important issues have a common characteristic.

Let us describe the situation of the Ros Tapestry in New Ross. ”The Ros Tapestry Lovers” are especially affected by the actual situation of the Tapestry. This is obvious since it is now obliged to be housed in a small, grimy looking, and narrow corridor. The few visitors are obliged to squeeze past fragile embroideries in a very cramped and unsuitable condition, and a pillar blocks the view of some panels…

But, also dangerous for the completion of the Tapestry, the working stitchers in this dangerous building, have to work without the expert guidance of the Artistic Director. As a result, the wonderful artistic work could have received catastrophic deterioration, and the country would loose one of the best flag of the Irish Modern Art. It must be born in mind that the twelve finished panels were invited by the State to be exhibited in Farmleigh at Dublin during three months of the Irish Presidency of the European Community. The presidential couple Barack and Michelle Obama also demanded to see the Tapestry during their one-day stay in Ireland two years ago!

We have to ask the question how the deteriorating situation could occur and why?

The exhibition Center is located in the County of Wexford, at New Ross. As soon as an exhibition Center was found and a Committee for the management of the Tapestry created, the town decided that the only museum to be generally sponsored should not be the Tapestry but the “Dunbrody ship (a copy of a 19th century ship). Therefore, no dedicated funds were allocated to the Tapestry from the Town when in the meantime, millions of euros were given, for different reasons, to the ship.

We have also to observe that during that time, all tourist guides received full description and invitation to visit the ship and nothing was reported for the Tapestry Museum. With strong advertising the ship received different sponsors of the official administrations, and numerous employees, when nothing comparable was allocated for the Tapestry. Since the previous clerk of the town was considering that the town has to support only the ship, the consequences for the Tapestry were clear. Moreover, a dreadful lease was organised for the Tapestry, which imposed a rent much to high than the budget could afford, specially when no advertising were proposed. The consequences were automatic. Obligation to quit  “Priory Court”, the previous exhibition Center, which presented convenient space and material conditions. The new place is, as said above, just a “rat hole”. Letters we have received confirms that situation. Some are published in the news pages of the website.

But, to understand the actual situation we have also to consider the way the Ros Tapestry was managed. By no regular methods, the artists, creators of the Ros Tapestry were eliminated even as members of the Ros Tapestry Association. The Artistic Director, after 15 years of strong work was not accepted inside the Committee and, as a consequence, the stitchers were abandoned without expert guidance.  Not only the artists but also the 150 embroiderers were refused as members of the Association in order to maintain infinitely the power of the Board. A small group, characteristic of a small town, made robust decisions without the advices of the artists, professional historians, or professional crafts people.

Several years ago, the creator of the Ros Tapestry made an attempt to change the management methods. She asks a qualified solicitor whom lectures on Company Law at the University College Dublin to inform the Board about the methods of management needed by a democratic and efficient organisation. Several long documents were sent. However, not a single result occurred. At a later point, the artist was asked to obtain the permission of the Board to speak about the cartoons she had painted, and about her historical researches! An interview between the Irish Television and her was even refused!….

It is perfectly clear that the question of the survival of the Ros Tapestry should be in the hands of an Official Organisation. The Board is not in a position to act in response to the Tapestry’s diverse requirements. Ireland can’t abandon her artistic treasure.

If we have started this document, by relating dreadful scandals it is because they are strongly linked.

All countries possess dangerous people or groups of individuals who are the burden to society. But Ireland possesses also excellent artists and writers. Unfortunately the common context of the reported stories is the complete silence and inactivity of the population. People know but do not react. It was the case for the poor children and mothers, the abused children at school, but also at New Ross for the Ros Tapestry.

It is now the responsibility of the Authorities of the Country, of the State and Cultural Department to protect artistic heritage. They have to decide rapidly as the fragile textile is presently suffering, and management difficulties are continuously increasing.

Man does not live by bread alone.

Our Ros Tapestry Lovers team will be vigilant, and will fight to preserve a world heritage.


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