Tuesday 24 October 2017

Developer's controversial Achill structure praised as 'genius'

Joe McNamara. Photo: Courtpix
Joe McNamara. Photo: Courtpix

Edwin McGreal

The Stonehenge-like structure built on Achill Island by controversial developer Joe McNamara has been praised as 'genius' and a piece of public art.

Mr McNamara is due to return to the High Court today over the unauthorised development. But a local politician, who visited the site several times last week, feels it would be a "terrible" decision to tear it down.

Mayo County Council currently has the matter before the High Court, but Cllr Michael McLaughlin (FG) believes it could become a major tourist attraction.

"People will travel from all over to see it and I think it could be one of the major tourist attractions in the west of Ireland. If left it will still be standing strong in 5,000 years and will continue to pose questions and generate debate, that's what good art does.

"It is public art in my opinion. There's a fine line sometimes between genius and madness but I certainly think this is genius."

Joe McNamara, known as the 'Anglo Avenger' after a series of high-profile protests against Anglo Irish Bank, was released from jail on Monday night after spending the weekend there.

He was found in contempt of court last Friday by Judge Roderick Murphy for ignoring two injunctions served by a Mayo County Council planning officer to stop work on the structure the weekend before last.

The structure, the purpose for which remains unclear, was erected without planning permission between November 25 and 27.

Cllr McLaughlin, a member of Westport Town Council, the nearest large town to Achill Island, argues that while planning was clearly breached, the structure is worthy of an exception.

"I know there are planning breaches and, by the letter of the law, it should come down. But I think an exception should be made," he said.

"First of all, from an engineering point of view, it is a fantastic piece of work. He did it all himself and I wouldn't say it is even one quarter inch out of place and he got it built in one weekend.

Last Friday Judge Murphy told McNamara that he will be invited to 'purge his contempt' at today's court sitting and 'deal with the matter of what appears to be an unlawful development'.

It is understood that McNamara is preparing to apply for retention planning permission for the development.

Irish Independent

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