Why does the Molly Malone statue keep being defaced?

By Fiona Frawley

September 19, 2023 at 11:06am


In the words of a viral YouTube sensation - leave Molly alone.

If you frequent the Suffolk Street area of town at all, you'll be well accustomed to the sight. Beaming tourists laden down with fanny packs and Carrolls shopping bags, eagerly awaiting their turn to lay their mitts on sweet Molly's worn down mammaries.

The act, that seems to be top of the list for every person visiting Dublin, evokes mixed responses from those of us living here. Many brush it off as one of those daft things tourists insist on doing, like paying Temple Bar prices for a pint or having paddy caps welded onto their noggins for the entire duration of their stay. Others are furious that one of the only statues of a woman in Dublin is being persistently groped - this is believed to be the motivation for recent attacks of a different kind on Molly's breast plate.

The Molly Malone statue has been vandalised multiple times over the past month or so. Image via Instagram/Imelda May. 

Over the past month or so, there have been at least four cases of vandalism of the Molly Malone statue - Molly's chest specifically. The defacements have gone from subtle smudging of her front with black paint to more blatant appeals of "please don't" scrawled across her in neon green. Maybe the ample covering of each instance by news outlets (including ourselves) is encouraging copycats to get involved but in any case, it seems whoever's getting the paint cans out feels they're doing Molly a favour.


Singer Imelda May has spoken out in support of the desecration in a post on Instagram, writing:

"Molly Malone statue ‘vandalised’ and I’m here for it!!!!! I’ve been years protesting against the groping of Mollys breasts (tourists are told to do this for luck?!) and have encouraged friends to join me when I stand there physically protesting against this with my daughter beside me.

"Women have been objectified forever and the only statue in Dublin with breasts is basically assaulted in front of our children’s eyes daily, What message does that give to the next generations?’ Whomever ‘vandalised’ Molly is speaking up for all of us".

Obviously, the tradition of rubbing a statues chest for "luck" could do with being phased out - but is defacing them an appropriate alternative? Is the graffiti not a similar invasion of Molly's personal space and dignity? While Imelda and others have pointed out that Molly is one of the few female statues in Dublin, she's also one of the only statues by a female sculptor - Jeanne Rynhart, who passed away in 2020 aged 74. Her work is being consistently targeted and damaged instead of being celebrated and cherished, and not to point out the obvious but Molly's chest is probably being rubbed up more than ever by the Dublin City Council members tasked with wiping away the paint.

Image via the Lovin team. 

In a world where women are assaulted and mistreated on the daily (with a recent high profile documentary sadly re-emphasising this), it's completely understandable that people are upset to see a woman, bronze cast or otherwise, being consistently groped. But the black paint and green-tinted messages certainly aren't deterring anyone, and are a defilement all of their own.

Is there another way to discourage people from copping a feel? What are your thoughts on the recent string of vandalisms? Let us know what you think.

Header image via Instagram/Imelda May/The Lovin Team



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