Wednesday 20 September 2017

Brian buoyed by watertight plan for the Asgard

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

LEAKY vessels and tombstones -- as if we weren't in a bad enough state without the Taoiseach giving us a few new significant metaphors to mull over.

But the lure of a few hours away from the foundering ship that is Government Buildings proved irresistible and so Brian Cowen slipped quietly out yesterday for a happy potter around the workshops of the National Museum at Collins Barracks followed by a peaceful amble around Glasnevin Cemetery -- regardless of what fun the caption writers might have with his big day out.

Besides, there was even a 'Good News Story' in there somewhere -- with a government-backed project delivered on time and on budget.

Work is nearing completion at the museum on the conservation of the Asgard -- the yacht built as a wedding present for Erskine Childers and his Bostonian bride Molly Osgood and subsequently used by them to run guns for the Irish Volunteers.

The vessel is expected to be finished "by the middle of this year", four years ahead of the centenary of the 1914 Howth Gun-running.

When it's finished, the Asgard will be "75pc original" said project manager and master shipwright, John Kearnon.

He said they had painstakingly taken apart the entire 28-tonne gaff-rigged ketch "like a giant jigsaw puzzle".

Display

Much of the damage done to the wood of the ship had been as a result of the original brass nails being replaced by steel ones in repair jobs over the years, he revealed.

When it's finished, the vessel will be on display to the public at the museum.

And reassuringly in these cash-straitened times, the whole three-year project to conserve the Asgard was "great value" at around €600,000, said museum director Dr Pat Wallace.

As Mr Cowen inspected the mellow antique wood of the hull and met the team of craftsmen, photographers clambered precariously on to a piece of scaffolding for a better angle.

"Taoiseach presides over another collapse," quipped a quiet voice at the back.

After a quick cup of tea and a chat with Mr Wallace, Mr Cowen described the Asgard as a "wonderful restoration project", which would make a "wonderful centrepiece to the next stage of Collins Barracks" and which would provide a lot of cultural touristic interest.

Asked whether finance was secure for Collins Barracks, the Taoiseach momentarily hesitated, saying: "Well, as you know finance is. . ." before quickly saying the museum was working within its budgets "admirably well".

From there, it was off to oversee the spending of more money, with the opening of the new museum at Glasnevin Cemetery.

It celebrates almost 180 years of Irish history and contains more than 1.5 million burial records, from Daniel O'Connell to Constance Markievicz, and Gerard Manley Hopkins to Brendan Behan.

A total of €7.5m has been provided over the period 2007 to 2009 and a further €1.5m for this year, he reassured the museum directors.

As he chatted with descendants of Daniel O'Connell, the Taoiseach seemed to go away comforted. He wasn't the only Irish leader to have ever had it tough.

Irish Independent

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