A little under a month ago a blue wall on the peripheries of Temple Bar became the biggest talking point in Ireland. When acclaimed homegrown artist Maser and The HunReal Issues came together they decided to use the space to highlight one of the most contentious issues for women in this country in 2016.
The artist painted a mural with a simple message, ‘Repeal the 8th‘, of course referring to the amendment to the Irish constitution which was signed into law in 1983, an amendment that has been the cause for much debate.
We spoke with Andrea Horan, the founder of The HunReal Issues, to see what life has been like since the mural was painted over, and what she really wants to get out of this campaign.
We were chatting about it earlier on, is the reason you started The HunReal Issues born out of the fact that you’ve been chatting to people on the ground on a daily basis?
Well, I was working in PR for 15 years. Towards the end of that I was working on brands and thinking “what am I doing for the world??”
So I left that and went travelling and found myself and said ok I’ll make a gorge nail bar because that’s giving back right?
We always tried to infiltrate our messages from Trop Pop with empowering stuff. Everything we did was the democratic way to make people feel good, because there’s no size or whatever, everyone can get their nails done.
Myself and Aislinn Lawlor started a PR company, Tropical Hype, and then James Kavanagh got involved. But one day we looked at each other and asked “do any of us actually want to do PR?” No was the answer.
So in the meantime the election happened and I was asking girls what way they were voting and they were like “I dunno, whatever way my Mam does.” And I was like “gulp!”
I saw some piece in a magazine that said ‘Get the perfect hair for the general election’. That’s not what women are. But then there was also nowhere for people who don’t want to read about current affairs through long opinion pieces to learn about politics.
So I was sitting in one night with a bottle of gin thinking about what could connect the two and wrote out the plan for Hunreal.
So Hunreal is like you having a conversation in Trop Pop, or in a bar?
It’s giving information in easily accessible bite-sized pieces. You wake up in the morning and you don’t have time to read the Irish Independent, so you check your Snapchat.
For instance when Kate O’Connell spoke about Repeal the 8th in the Dail, there were lots of opinion pieces, but we took one significant part and put it into an Instagram meme. That’s what you get from us.
Are you surprised more media outlets don’t use this approach with more serious issues? We look at what we do as throwing glitter on serious topics. A lot of it comes from when Paris Hilton wore the vote or die t-shirt. It was about getting celebrities and people in the spotlight, and it’s no one’s place to say that’s the wrong way to get it out. That’s just the way some people get their information.
Do you feel this is all accelerating and when a referendum does come about you’ll be consumed? I had to turn off my phone for the past few days because I was obsessed. Everything spiralled out of control the moment we painted the mural. If I went to the toilet I’d come back to my phone and I’d have a million notifications.
I was trying to check Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and emails as well as trying to keep up with what was happening. Maser was living with me at the time and we were both asking “what they fuck is going on!”
It was the main trending topic in Ireland in fairness. We were talking to Anna Cosgrave from the Repeal campaign and she says she’s obliged at this stage whether she likes it or not to be there until the end now. Will you be able to do that?
Well there were definitely times over the past few weeks where I wanted to go back to my glitter-filled life.
It’s gotten so much more complicated. But a friend of mine was chatting with a politician recently and they said that it has to be a grass roots movement. It can’t be the government saying this is how it should go, it has to come from the bottom to make it happen.
It’s essentially pop culture now. The artwork itself is going to be iconic to the movement. Do you feel that’s important, like Joe Caslin’s mural for the Marriage Equality referendum, to have a symbol to relate to?
It taps into people’s emotions. The fact that we covered up a piece of paint and what happened afterwards… Sorry I have goosbumps thinking about it… Proves how important art is to something like this. It shows you how much it means to people.
Have you thought about what issues you want to tackle next?
Well we want to focus on this right now, but something we know we want to look at is separating the church and state. It’s outrageous that we have to enter people into a cult so they can be educated.
People are saying you don’t have to be baptised to go to a good school, well no because there are like 11 Educate Together schools or something. How are we ever meant to separate it if there’s a dogma ingrained into kids from school?
Do you feel it’s a compliment that men are responding to (The HunReal Issues) too?
Women’s rights are for everyone, it affects how we speak to each other, how we treat each other, so men have as much of a role to play as women do. It’s funny because we were looking at our feed the other day and realised nearly everyone was either a drag queen or a man. We had Panti talking, James Kavanagh talking, we were like “we need to get some Huns in here!”
So how long do you think it will take before there’s a referendum?
Going by Twitter, every time the anti-choice side do or say something there’s an influx of pro-choicers calling them out on their lies.
If you look at the March for Choice versus the other side’s balloon-filled marc, there’s definitely a call. The majority want this and the government have to follow the majority.
Do you think the momentum of the past few weeks can accelerate the referendum?
100 per cent. The only reason the government aren’t moving on this is because they don’t have consensus and they’re worries that from their own career perspective that if they push it they will fall.
If it’s what the people want it should happen.
Ok, so lastly, how did you feel when you saw the photoshopped ‘Repeal’ t-shirts and Maser artwork?
I kept getting caught up emotionally, so I’ve had to put boundaries in so it doesn’t affect me. I’d waste like four hours shaking after seeing something, so now I just leave them to it. They’re being absolute morons, and it’s absolutely gross. They go on and on about being Pro-Life, you’re not. You’re pro-birthing, the minute the child is born you couldn’t give a flying fuck.