Belfast Telegraph

Modern Irish history portrayed in festival garden

Brian Burke charts the journey from the 1980s fervour associated around reports of moving religious statutes, to the gay marriage referendum in 2015.

A TV gardener has used flowers and trees to portray the dramatic social changes witnessed in Ireland over the last three decades.

Award-winning designer Brian Burke, a judge on RTE’s Super Garden, focused on the country’s shifting attitudes since the 1980s.

The garden, on show at the annual Bloom festival at Phoenix Park in Dublin, charts the journey from the fervour associated around reports of moving religious statutes in the mid-80s to the gay marriage referendum in 2015.

Mr Burke said: “It is the natural unfolding of a newly-assertive society and there is a certain fluidity and coherence to the journey throughout all that dramatic change.”

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A sculpture representing same sex marriage in the garden that opens on Thursday (Niall Carson/PA)

Each zone of the Woodie’s Moving Statues to Marriage Equality garden features a ceramic sculpture to suggest the prevailing values of the period – past religious belief, present secularism and future fears about climate change.

Each area includes a centrepiece tree synonymous with its era as well as shrubs from the period and herbaceous planting.

The central message was a play on the adage that the best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago and the second best today; that while climate change was best tackled decades ago it was better to do something now than not at all.

Mr Burke’s creation includes landmarks from Ireland’s history, including Pat Bonner saving a penalty during the Italia 90 World Cup clash with Romania, Good Friday Agreement architect George Mitchell, the Ireland v England rugby international at Croke Park, the Queen’s visit to Ireland and the era when Ajai Chopra and other members of the troika were overseeing the country’s finances post-bail out.

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A sculpture representing the churches influence in Ireland in Brian Burke’s garden (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Burke said the period when people reported seeing moving or crying statues was one when “religious zealotry” ruled the roost.

He depicted it using a spade with rosary beads draped around it, a worker who had gone to answer the call to prayer.

The passing of the same-sex marriage referendum came to represent to many Ireland’s journey into modernity, symbolised in the garden by the first marriage between Cormac Gollogly and Richard Dowling.

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