One of Brian Cowan’s nicknames is BIFFO, not because of his uncanny likeness to the old Beano character but because it stands for “Big Ignorant F*cker From Offaly”. This sobriquet seems to be more and more appropriate given the reaction to the unflattering but satirical portraits of him that appeared recently in Dublin galleries
Today’s Times reports that the creator of the nude portraits faces prison yesterday after police discovered his identity. Conor Casby, 35, a Dublin secondary school teacher, has been credited with Biffo on the Bog and another portrait of the Taoiseach. Police have interviewed him and are preparing a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Mr Casby could be prosecuted for indecency, incitement to hatred and criminal damage - for hammering a nail into a wall of the National Gallery of Ireland. If convicted, he would face a heavy fine and possibly even a stint in jail. One, which was smuggled into the National Gallery, pictured the Irish leader on the toilet holding a toilet roll. It remained on display for 20 minutes before security took it down. The other painting, portraying the Taoiseach holding a pair of blue and white Y-fronts, was hung in the Royal Hibernian Academy.
The success of the stunt seemed to provide a welcome respite from the barrage of gloomy economic news, but the authorities took a different view. Will Hanafin, a producer at the Dublin radio station Today FM, said that Mr Casby had contacted him on Monday to confirm that he was the artist. He described the artist as “a very nice, meek and humble man who is freaked out by the reaction” to his creative endeavours. Once the artist's identity was revealed by the radio station the police arrived. A detective told him that he was under “pressure from on high ... the powers that be wanted it investigated”. Mr Casby later accompanied police officers voluntarily to a Garda station to be interviewed about the incidents in the galleries.
Fine Gael, the main opposition party, called the affair a “scandalous waste of resources” for detectives to be investigating “what amounted to a practical joke that offended the Taoiseach's ego”. Mr Casby said in a statement that he “would like to draw an end to this by offering the portraits to the highest bidder and donate the proceeds to charity”
The portraits have given many people a good laugh, albeit at the expense of Biffo. But then Biffo is a political leader and should thus expect more lampooning than reverence, especially in these harsh economic times. Mr Casby should be left alone and allowed to sell the paintings. That way some charity will be very happy even if Biffo isn’t.