1916 stone unveiled - but boarded up in row over planning
A controversial 1916 commemorative stone was last night unveiled in Galway despite being boarded off by the council amid an ongoing planning permission row.
The 'Mervue 1916-2016 Commemorative Stone' is emblazoned with an image of the Easter Lily traditionally worn by Republicans to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Rising. The stone first appeared in a park on Connolly Avenue in east Galway earlier this week.
But it was hidden by wooden hoarding ahead of the ceremony yesterday after some locals reportedly complained to officials.
Speaking to the Irish Independent last night, Galway City Council spokesman Gary McMahon confirmed: "It's my understanding that a 1916 commemorative plaque of some description was erected in a city council park area. Our parks department wasn't aware of this in any way - obviously it's gone in without any permission.
"It was decided that it would be cordoned off until our health and safety officer can carry out an inspection on it next week."
Despite being cordoned off by the council, about 100 people turned up to catch a glimpse of the stone - which also bears the words 'To the people of Galway a sheas an fód ar son Phoblacht na hÉireann' - at the unveiling ceremony at 7pm.
Sinn Féin Galway City East councillor Mairead Farrell admitted some of the hoarding was "temporarily removed" during the event but she insisted that neither the ceremony nor the stone were "a Sinn Féin thing".
Ms Farrell said: "I don't know who organised or paid for the stone. It was a residents' thing - it wasn't a Sinn Féin thing.
"They came to me and asked me to give a hand because I'm in Mervue. I was at the event and it was lovely.
"We temporarily removed the barrier in front of the stone so that people could see it and put it straight back up again.
"A lot of local people put a lot of time and effort into it. We had to go ahead with it - it was organised."
However, Fine Gael Councillor for Galway City Central Padraig Conneely accused Sinn Féin of "hijacking" the centenary commemorations.
He said: "Sinn Féin obviously want to do their own thing for the 1916 celebrations - they're not interested in the overall celebrations.
"As far as I can see, they're using the centenary to promote themselves as the real freedom fighters. This is just another blatant example of how they seem to be trying to hijack the celebrations."