After the statue was found in February, exactly one month to the day since it had been stolen, the sculptor was contacted by the council to see if it could be repaired. Aside from the damage to the base, where it had been hacked away from the rest of the sculpture, the back of the head had been completely detached and there were dents and marks all over it. It was eventually decided that the statue was beyond repair and the best option would be to replace it. The new sculpture, which will be an exact replica (with some extra reinforcements to help strengthen it) will take at least five or six months to complete. It seems the council have decided to meet the cost of replacement themselves, rather than opting to set up an online fundraiser as had been mooted at the last meeting.
The statue was initially discovered by a group of ramblers, only 300 metres from its original position at the Gortmore Viewing Point. Given the search efforts that were made shortly after the theft, which included a helicopter sweep of the area, it's assumed that the statue had only been moved to that position recently, perhaps even the night before it was discovered. The ramblers who spotted the statue alerted some soldiers who were on a training exercise nearby (something that caused a little controversy), and the police were called. One of the soldiers involved in the recovery said that it took three men to move the statue up onto the roadside, so clearly there were a number of people involved in the theft, as has already been speculated.
During the council meeting, it was suggested that the original sculpture could be put on display in a local arts and cultural centre:
“I think the damaged statue itself presents a double whammy, and a golden opportunity to make it an actual tourist attraction within the town centre, which would be of great interest to schools and visitors to learn about the background to the Broighter Gold legend.”
-- Councillor Mullan, Damaged statue represents a 'golden opportunity'
Which sounds like a great idea -- I'd love to be able to see the original statue as well as the new replacement if I'm ever able to go and visit the place (I certainly plan to the next time I'm over in Ireland). Perhaps predictably, however, the suggestion prompted something of an outcry, with a TUV councillor raising concerns that making a tourist attraction out of it "...would promote paganism and false gods":
...Mr Mullan said he was taken aback by the reaction his suggestion ignited from his fellow councillors. Among those who vented their disapproval was the TUV's Boyd Douglas who said he was unhappy the statute had been erected at all.
"I don't believe in these false gods. Councillor Mullan's suggestion to link a paganistic monument with the Broighter Gold is ridiculous."
Belfast Telegraph: Celtic statue row: TUV man blasts 'false gods and pagans'Which totally ignores the fact that there's a good reason that Manannán mac Lir is associated with the Broighter Gold in the first place! And really. Sorry, Mr Douglas. The cat's pretty much out of the bag on this one, with or without a statue...
The councillor might not have much truck with it, but the fact of the matter is, the theft has garnered a huge amount of interest worldwide and more people are interested in going to see the statue -- new or old -- than ever before, regardless of their own personal beliefs or lack thereof. To argue against responding to this interest and refusing to put the damaged statue on display is a disservice to those in the area who could benefit from the increased tourism, a point that Councillor Mullan himself made when he withdrew the proposal.
It's a shame, but at least there hasn't been any serious opposition to replacing the statue up on Binevenagh Mountain itself. Manannán will return.