Russell statue: vandalised

It was covered in swastikas and Nazi symbols and then had its head chopped off. It was cleaned up in the middle of the night by sovereignty groups, re-headed and vandalised again.

Now the controversial Sean Russell statue in Dublin's Fairview Park has attracted the attention of another group of vandals, who last week daubed it with 'peace' and 'love' symbols. The latest graffiti has left chairman of the National Graves Association Sean Whelan with a bill of €2,000 for repair work. Whelan says he has been in contact with gardaí to arrange a night-patrol in the park.

Although he says the association has not caught the culprit responsible for the "increasingly bizarre" bouts of vandalism, he says groups who take it upon themselves to clean the statue are becoming part of the problem.

"The statue was first put up a few years ago and was repeatedly vandalised by self-proclaimed neo-Nazis, left-wingers, right-wingers and history revisionists. Then sovereignty groups went to the memorial after the vandalism and cleaned it with yellow paint, which is not really fixing it at all. We're asking all groups, whether vandals or cleaners, to please leave the grave alone."

The statue was the subject of controversy in 2004 when it had its head chopped off. A group of anti-fascists claimed to have decapitated it. A new memorial was unveiled in May 2009, complete with motion sensors and a GPS tracker in the head should vandals decide on a repeat course of action.

"We haven't caught those responsible yet, but we have been in meetings with gardaí about getting patrols during the day and during the night, as well as organising our own watch. It is getting to be a pain in the neck at this stage," said Whelan.

Sean Russell was a veteran of the 1916 rising and is understood to have been trained in explosives while in Berlin under Nazi control. He returned to Ireland to launch a new IRA campaign.

"It is clear that these vandals... are getting the wrong picture about Sean Russell. If anyone were to fully research and understand Russell, there would be no need for this. It is ridiculous to suggest this man was a fascist. I'm amazed this is rumbling on," said Whelan.