Brian Cowen: The Naked Taoiseach (updated 7/04/2009)

Brian Cowen on the toilet
Nude Brian Cowen and his Underpants
Picturegate or Cowengate?:
The Emperor has no clothes, it seems… We’re a big fan of pranks here on, as those of you remember the Caravaggio – Berlusconi debacle from a few years ago, or Dublin’s ban on slow walking.
Now someone genius has managed – Banksy style – to deposit nude paintings of the Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Brian Cowen onto the walls of the into the Royal Hibernian Academy and the National Gallery in Dublin. In the RHA, Cowen is pictured in the nude, holding his underpants – in the National Gallery, he’s shown sitting on the toilet. News reports say that the Gardai (Irish police) are, eh, on the job, but it’s difficult to grasp what crime has actually been committed.

The original Sunday Tribune article »
RTE: Guerilla artist hangs nude Cowen paintings »
BBC: Naked taoiseach paintings removed »
The Guardian: Guerrilla artist hangs nude paintings of taoiseach Brian Cowen »
Follow the drama on Twitter #picturegate
Get your Naked Taoiseach t-shirt (for charity) »
The Art Show critiques the Cowen Paintings (20 Major) &raquo (Epicurian Buggery indeed!)
Damien Mulley: “Last night part of the freedom of the press was murdered in front of our eyes” »
Even the NY Times is on the story: New York Times: Ireland: Nude Premier Paintings Appear »
RTE News coverage:

Update March 25:
The following was added to the RTE news article Guerilla artist hangs nude Cowen paintings »

On the 23 March 2009 Nine News, we carried a report on the illicit hanging of caricatures of the Taoiseach in two Dublin galleries. RTE news would like to apologise for any personal offence caused to Mr Cowen or his family or for any disrespect shown to the office of Taoiseach by our broadcast.

Irish Independent: RTE apology to Cowen for nude portrait story »

What is this country coming to when we can’t even slag off, disparage, disrespect, annoy, whistle at or look at our heads of state as naked as the day begat them?
More: Irish Times: Gardaí visit radio station (Today FM) in Cowen painting inquiry »

On his show this morning, [Ray] D’Arcy said the show’s producer Will Hanafin had spoken with the garda who had told him that “the powers that be want action taken”.

Mr Hanafin said he was told that the Gardaí wanted the name and contact details of the artist so they could caution him and when he declined to pass the information on, he was told a warrant might be sought to get access to the show’s emails.

This is getting ridiculous. The entire population – man, woman and child, should all march on Government Buildings naked, holding our underpants aloft in protest at well, everything, including this bullshit.
“Down with that sort of thing, and down with your underpants too. Careful now.”
Update 1800 hrs on March 25th:

Conor Casby, a 35-year-old school teacher from Dublin, voluntarily accompanied investigators to a police station to be interviewed. It is understood he was not arrested. PA has said a file is being prepared, which could be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Mr Casby issued a statement to the Today FM radio station in which he said would “like to draw an end to this by offering the portraits to the highest bidder and donate the proceeds to charity”.

Will Hanafin, the show’s [Ray D’Arcy Show’s] producer, said the detective told him the investigation was looking at three potential offences of indecency, incitement to hatred and criminal damage, which was hammering a nail into a gallery wall.

Weirdly, RTE refers to the fact that the picture was glued to the wall – which sounds much more likely than hammering a nail in!
BBC: Cowen artist ‘could be charged’ »
Irish Times update to name Casby » Garda quiz man over Cowen pic »
RTE: Teacher questioned over Cowen portraits »
Update March 26th:
Looks like the left hand doesn’t know what the middle leg is doing:

Government press secretary Eoghan Ó Neachtain has said he did not consult the Taoiseach or anyone else before making a complaint to RTÉ about a news item relating to the hoax nude portraits.

Irish Times: Cowen not consulted before complaint to RTE »
The opposition suddenly wakes up, days later:

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said a ‘grovelling unreserved apology’ had been given about a piece of political satire as a result of contact from the Government Press Secretary./blockquote>
RTE: Opposition slams Govt over portrait pressure »
Update March 27th:
Misery guts John Waters gets up on his high donkey. Do The Irish Times actually pay him for this shit?

The only amusing thing here is Casby’s deluded belief that he has something to say. His response is typical of a public discourse almost fatally degraded by internet auto-eroticism and an obsession with what is called “comedy”. His works are crude, unfunny, vindictive, without intrinsic content and wholly lacking in artistic merit.

Sorry John, most of the Plain People of Ireland found it funny. Now fuck off, please.
John Waters: With public discourse so debased, the joke is on us
Meanwhile, has an interesting discourse on the legal aspects of the whole ‘cowengate’ thing: “In the circumstances, I find it difficult to see what crime the artist committed.”
Cowengate and Freedom of Expression »
Over on Creative Ireland, there’s a Photoshop Cowen extravaganza! »
Update: March 30th 2009:

The ‘naked Brian Cowen’ prank was meant as a comment on the media. It turned into much more than that: a story of government heavy-handedness, and of a grovelling apology from the state broadcaster.

The Sunday Tribune followup: A stunt, a story, a nut and a hammer »
Excellent commentary from Ann Marie Hourihane in The Irish Times, which at least balances the drivel that John Waters was spouting last week:

Surely the point is not that RTÉ news should not have apologised for making us laugh, but that it doesn’t apologise enough. As the nation hangs on that well-worn cusp between tears and laughter, RTÉ news is pretty well guaranteed to render the licence-payer helpless with mirth – and not just when it is performing its devastatingly accurate impersonation of Soviet state television.

The Irish Times: Portrait of Ireland as a laughing stock »

The artist whose nude portraits of Brian Cowen, the Irish Prime Minister, caused a political furore after they were hung briefly in two of Dublin’s most celebrated art galleries has handed the police a series of other satirical works featuring the nation’s politicians.

The Times: Biffo on the Bog artist Conor Casby hands more works to police »
Maman Poulet: Tipping Point » (good discussion on the whole shebang)
Readers letter to the Irish Independent says “It’s a man’s world »
Coverage on Index On Censorship’s Free Speech blog »
Silicon Republic: Irish internet in uproar over Picturegate censorship »
Update: March 31st 2009
Fintan O’Toole hits the nail on the in The Irish Times (although I understand there was no nail, just some class of adhesive used):

Bulges-and-all portraits of naked, fleshy people are actually rather in vogue at the moment: think of Lucien Freud’s portraits of Leigh Bowery and Sue Tilley or Daniel Mark Duffy’s portrait of Nell McCafferty in all her glory, which also hung at the RHA recently. If Casby was potentially guilty of “indecency”, why did Duffy not have his collar felt?

The Irish Times: Absurd and cynical abuse of powers »
Martin Rowson (cartoonist) comments pictorially on ‘picturegate’ » (recommended!)
Update 06/4/2009:
Just when you thought it couldn’t get crazier:

Staff at the National Gallery were threatened with arrest and the Official Secrets Act after media leaks that an unauthorised portrait of Brian Cowen had temporarily hung in the museum.

National Gallery staff threatened with jail over Cowengate pictures »
Found 7th April 2009:

Read: While RTE is Craven and Supine before Power, Blather Won’t Let you Down! »

Chief Bottle Washer at Blather
Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and "known troublemaker" Dave Walsh is the founder of, described both as "possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River", and "the nicest website circulating in Ireland". Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.


  1. Great to see that some Irish person saw through the Taoiseach.
    Perhaps it is a timely reminder that all corruption is to be made visible to the world.?

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