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Sunday 21 September 2014

Kilkenny bridge protesters row to aid of distressed young man

Published 31/08/2014 | 02:30

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The bridge protestors earlier this month - pictured from left are Jason Quinn, Mark Stewart, Anuska Gutierrez and Jean Brett. Picture: Dylan Vaughan
The bridge protestors earlier this month - pictured from left are Jason Quinn, Mark Stewart, Anuska Gutierrez and Jean Brett. Picture: Dylan Vaughan

A young man in distress who was threatening to throw himself into the River Nore was "talked down" by protesters against a new bridge who went to his aid in a canoe.

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The 'Camp Nore' protesters in Kilkenny, who have maintained a picket most of the summer, paddled over to the young man and calmed him down as he stood on rocks beside the fast flowing river last Wednesday night.

They managed to open a dialogue after the man, who is in his 20s and described as "extremely distraught", removed clothing and moved towards the water.

Their action gave gardai time to make their way through the construction site and arrive at the river bank.

The two protestors, Alec Young and James Quinn, and the two uniformed gardai continued to talk to the man and he was eventually brought to safety.

Mr Young told the Sunday Independent:"He was very much in distress and we were very worried for his safety. James and I spoke to him. I talked to him and asked him where he was from and he replied: 'I am from nowhere', which I thought was a very sad thing for him to say.

"In fairness when the gardai arrived they were great. They were very calm and professional. They spoke to him gently and persuaded him to go with them. Hopefully he is getting the help he requires."

There was a similar incident at the same spot just weeks ago when a young woman climbed over railings on a bridge over the river at 5am in the morning and threatened to throw herself in the water.

A man who was taking part in the overnight picket saw what was happening and climbed over the railings himself. He managed to contain the young woman and brought her to safety after talking with her.

Last Thursday Kilkenny County Council cleared the Camp Nore site near Greens Bridge, which has been the base for protesters against the bridge currently under construction as part of the controversial Central Access Scheme (CAS).

The council estimate the summer-long protest has cost €410,000 in extra security measures, and from delays in construction work and interruptions to deliveries.

Last Monday, the council's acting chief executive, John Mulholland, said the increased costs caused by the protests were "unsustainable".

A motion calling for work to be suspended on the Central Access Scheme bridge was heavily defeated at a meeting of Kilkenny County Council last Monday by 17-5.

Protesters have since moved to another site near the construction project. According to one of the picket leaders, Mark Stewart, the group will now maintain a presence between 7am and 7pm every day. Work on the new €4m bridge started eight weeks ago. Campaigners insist the project will damage Kilkenny's unique heritage, but some residents argue it will alleviate traffic congestion.

Sunday Independent

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