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ART'S NEW GENERAL; Cahill's brother finds paint pays better than crime.

THE brother of Ireland's most notorious criminal, Martin Cahill, has taken the art world by storm in a new exhibition of his haunting work.

Eddie Cahill, 48, younger sibling of murdered crime lord The General is thousands of pounds richer since a gallery of his paintings went on show in Dublin last week.

The convicted kidnapper and drug smuggler started painting in 1992 while serving an eight years in Portlaoise jail for possession of pounds 50,000 worth of heroin.

Today a single painting by the former criminal fetches up to pounds 1,600 while three inch square motifs are being snapped up at pounds 75 each.

Cahill's private exhibition, entitled Grafton Street's A Wonderland, is currently on show at the City Arts Centre.

Despite the cheery title Cahill's works have been inspired by a collection of disturbing subjects from Dublin's underworld.

The charcoal drawings and acrylic paintings, featuring haunting faces of women and men which Cahill has created over the past two years, were inspired by prison inmates.

Cahill, whose brother Martin was shot dead in 1994, has devoted himself to being a full-time artist since his release from prison.

His first works to be exhibited were shown in Dublin's Project Arts Centre in 1995 when he was still behind bars.

Today collectors anxiously await his latest offerings from a venture which is keeping him on the right side of the law.

Ironically, he was quizzed by Gardai about peddling some of the priceless Beit collection paintings which his brother The General stole from Russborough House - the Wicklow home of Sir Alfred Beit - in 1986.

Martin Cahill masterminded the world's biggest art theft and even visited the home days before the raid to choose which ones he would steal.

His young brother took up painting eight years ago after being taught by Brian Maguire, one of Ireland's best known contemporary artists, who runs a painting course at Portlaoise.

A HARDENED criminal who had followed his brother into a life in the underworld, he stunned prison staff with the intensity of his drawings.

Cahill used to sleep during the day in prison and paint at night when it was quiet using candles made from butter.

An introduction to Cahill in a catalogue for his current work read: "When his fellow prisoners were being locked in for the night at 8pm, Eddie Cahill commenced his 12-hour shift - a creating vigil.

"Working in his bed with charcoal and folio size paper, while others slept, he gave substance to those haunting spectres and visions.

"The fall-out from his nocturnal labour described the shape of his body on the white bedsheet.

"The darkness, no longer a chasm of despair, no more a hell without hope, became a place illuminated by magic. The darkness flooded with life."

Cahill was released from prison in March 1997 and a year later showed new works at the TristAnn's Gallery in Dundalk.

The paintings were snapped up by collectors turning him into an overnight painting sensation.

His current catalogue biography added: "In prison Cahill concentrated on his own exact regime of non- compliance.

"Eddie Cahill will not be compromised by social security.

"He will not cringe and beg from those who stoke the darkness.

"His refusal to be beholden has empowered him with confidence.

"Eddie Cahill's most harrowing portraits to date began in January of this year. They commemorate 23 women prisoners in Mountjoy jail.

"His school has been of the hardest type from which few painters choose to graduate.

"It is his experiences outside of the law and inside the darkness that have forged his style.

"His paintings arrest the on-looker in the way that horror does.

"It is not exclusively that Eddie Cahill is an outsider from the margins of society that he can associate so sympathetically with his subjects.

"He is a sensitive artist and an intense human being. He is an outsider only in terms of social reference and familial background.

"Cahill has provided us with an insight, a knowledge of the darkness that exists beyond the ken of most."

Eddie Cahill has always shied away from publicising his family background.

He has refused to use his brother's name as a catalyst to attract buyers to buy his work.

His paintings have stood on their own in the fickle world of art and are gaining in value.

Cahill's career path has taken a different direction from his siblings.

But his notorious crime lord brother did share his love of art.

Not only was he behind the famous Beit raid in 1986, some of which have still not been found, but two years later he also masterminded a second art raid when he made off with the Murnaghan collection.

AROUND 40 of the paintings recovered from a batch of 60 stolen were sold in Dublin last year.

Alice Murnaghan, the widow of a Supreme Court judge, was 93 when Cahill broke into her house.

He locked her in a bedroom with her housekeeper while his gang helped themselves to the family art collection.

Around two-thirds of the Murnaghan paintings and pieces of silverware stolen were recovered within weeks but some had been badly damaged in transit.

The most important piece taken by Cahill, a 15th century work attributed to Giacomo Pacchiarotto, fetched pounds 17,250 at auction last year.

And Cahill's younger brother Michael will certainly not be visiting his latest work.

He was jailed last month for seven years for tying up and robbing two elderly nuns in a terrifying hour-long ordeal.

A series of syringe attacks on pensioners in Dublin have earned the HIV-infected drug addict a reputation as Ireland's most cowardly crook.
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Author:Tallant, Nicola
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 29, 2000
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