Calls to reopen Croppies Acre memorial park

Brian Hutton

CAMPAIGNERS have demanded the reopening of a memorial park to Irish patriots which was closed just a year after tens of thousands of euro in public money was poured into upgrading it.

The Croppies Acre in central Dublin - described as "sacred ground" - has turned into a no-go zone because authorities say they can't cope with drugs users and dirty syringes that litter the historical site.

Some €35,000 was spent overhauling the park in September 2011.

The renovations, celebrated with great fanfare by city fathers at the time, included making it the new home of the capital's troubled Anna Livia sculpture - known as the Floozy in the Jacuzzi.

But the Office of Public Works (OPW), which is charged with maintaining the park, said it has since been forced to permanently padlock the gates because of public health fears.

"Specialist cleaners are employed to remove hazardous material such as used syringes," said an OPW spokeswoman.

"However, as resources are not sufficient to keep the park clear of dangerous materials at all times and thus safe for public access, the park has had to be closed to the public."

Anti-social behaviour was also threatening public safety, according to the OPW, which said it doesn't have the manpower or money to put security at the site.

Drug-users and street drinkers continue to scale the walls of the park, near Heuston Station, which is strewn with dirty hypodermic needles, broken glass, beer cans, wine cartons and old clothes.

Matt Doyle, secretary of the National Graves Association, which maintains the graves of patriots, said the Croppies Acre was "sacred ground" and a "hugely important" part of Irish heritage.

"It is neglected and it is unfortunate there are syringes and the like lying about it," he said.

"It is the responsibility of the OPW and we would urge them to clean it up."

Mr Doyle, whose organisation fought plans to build a car and bus park on the site for the museum at Collins Barracks, said it needed to be rescued and reopened, possibly as part of the museum.

The memorial park, which lies between Wolfe Tone Quay and the National Museum at Collins Barracks, was a mass grave for "croppies" after the United Irishmen rebellion.

The rebels were so-called after their cropped haircuts, in the style of French revolutionaries who opposed the aristocrats, recognisable by their lavish wigs and costumes.

Matthew Tone, brother of United Irishmen founder Wolfe Tone,and Co Antrim-born rebellion leader Bartholomew Teeling, who were both hanged, are believed to be among the scores of bodies dumped in the makeshift grave.

The OPW said a decision was taken to close the memorial site in September last year.

The Government department said it was in talks with "stakeholders" about the future of the park but refused to explain what possibilities it was exploring for the publicly-owned grounds.