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Govt and GSD clash over removal of Ince’s Hall mural

The Gibraltar Government and the GSD have clashed this week over the refurbishment of Ince’s Hall, which saw the removal of street art mural by British artist Ben Eine.

The mural was painted on the side of Ince’s Hall six years ago at a cost of £19,881.34 to the taxpayer, and its removal has since drawn exchanges over this expenditure.

The GSD said it was always of the view that the mural which would later be painted over as part of a future refurbishment was a waste of public funds.

The party added that the Government at the time maintained Mr Eine was a renown artist, and questioned why it would then in turn destroy the work of art.

“The reality is that this is just another example of reckless spending with peoples’ money,” the GSD said.

“The fact that they intended to remove it from the beginning when they portrayed the artist as of great fame just emphasizes how ridiculous it was.:

Shadow minister for heritage and planning, Damon Bossino called it a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“Riding roughshod of the concerns expressed by many including from the Heritage Trust, as to whether painting the Ince’s Hall’s façade, given that we are dealing with a Georgian building with, therefore, heritage significance the Chief Minister happily and with little regard to the fact that he was spending tax payers’ money personally decided to splash out and commission the individual to paint the mural,” said Mr Bossino.

In turn, the Government said it does not consider the mural a waste of taxpayers money by any stretch of the imagination.

“The Government believes, and indeed said so at the time this was announced, that this was a piece of cultural art and made very clear this would only be in place untilthe wider Ince’s Hall refurbishment took place,” the Government said.

The Ince’s Hall refurbishment project is underway and, the Government said, it will further enhance and beautify the area, which was already substantially enhanced by the Government with the establishment of the Gibraltar International Bank.

“The Government believes the interim beautification of the Ince’s Hall façade with a mural was money well spent, given the poor state of the façade before the mural was painted and the fact it was a cultural piece of art painted by a well-respected international artist,” Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said.

“Mr Bossino should have reflected on the GSD’s own record before having the audacity to criticise mine.”

“The GSD Government spent an incomprehensible sum of almost £10 million pounds on a massive hole in the ground at the old Theatre Royal site and are criticising us for expenditure of just under £20,000 for a mural that has brought significant cultural and tourist interest to this previously dilapidated area.”

“Their massive hole in the ground left a massive hole in the taxpayers’ pocket and Mr Bossino should apologise to every single taxpayer in Gibraltar for the GSD’s lack of financial management in respect of this, and many other GSD Government projects.”

The GSD hit out, calling Mr Picardo’s response “as pathetic, as it is immature”.

The party said for Mr Picardo to hark back to GSD’s apparent failings from more than two decades ago, is a reflection of his nervousness as an election nears.

“The GSD will not allow the Chief Minister or his government to create a nonsensical sideshow in order to deflect from the basic fact that they have presided over a waste of taxpayers‘ money in respect of the Ince’s Hall mural - a wall which was painted by a supposedly world famous Banksy type of artist who obviously persuaded the Chief Minister into parting with £20,000 of our money,” the GSD said.

The party added the Chief Minister himself has presided over a government which has been responsible for now in excess of a £30 million overspend in relation to the Hassan Centenary Terrace housing development, which it called another example of financial profligacy.

“The Chief Minister should do some reflection himself, and apologise to the people of Gibraltar for exercising bad judgment in what is undeniably a waste of taxpayers’ money in relation to the Ince’s Hall mural and other matters,” Mr Bossino said.

The GSD added: “Financial prudence is certainly not something he will be remembered for.”

The Government responded that the £20,000 spent on the mural does not compare to the £10m the GSD lost in not building a new theatre.

“Mr Bossino will not be remembered for his financial acumen,” the Government said.

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