Oh me oh my, Joe would be proud
Rain can't dampen spirits as memorial bridge opens
"Maybe he'll turn up in a white suit," said a local man, peering hopefully across the span of the shiny new bridge.
Alas, it was highly unlikely that the political bigwig doing the opening honours at the Joe Dolan Memorial Bridge in Mullingar yesterday would arrive sporting such avant-garde get-up. Firstly, the weather conditions were decidedly more conducive to a waterproof two-piece, and secondly, Noel Dempsey really isn't a white suit sort of guy.
For oh me oh my was the rain coming down in stair rods as a crowd of hardy souls gathered for the official opening of the final link in the Mullingar ring road. It was descending faster than Anglo bank shares.
But the torrential downpour wasn't succeeding in dampening the spirits of the sodden assembly, which included the family of the late Joe Dolan, including his sisters Dympna and Imelda and his brothers Ben, Paddy and Vincent, plus a rainbow posse of local TDs, Fianna Fail's Mary O'Rourke, Labour's Willie Penrose, Fine Gael's James Bannon and senators Nicky McFadden and Donie Cassidy.
The new construction is a good-looking bridge. It is not just a wee yoke thrown over a stream. At 540 metres, the Joe Dolan Memorial Bridge is one of the longest in Ireland, and crosses the flood plains of the River Brosna and Lacy's Canal, and also comes complete with footpaths and cycle lanes.
But perhaps the most impressive fact of all was that the name for this bridge was chosen without any roaring, shouting, squabbling, turf wars or stand-offs on Westmeath County Council.
Despite this being a prestigious prize, there was total agreement among the various parties that the bridge should be named after the Mullingar-born star, who died in December 2007 at the age of 68.
"It was the unanimous decision of all of the members of Westmeath County Council -- from Kilbeggan, Kinnegad right across to Athlone -- that this bridge should be called after Joe Dolan," said cathaoirleach Michael Dollard.
If there was any silver lining attached to yesterday's heavy grey clouds, it was that the torrential rain prompted all the speakers at the opening ceremony to keep their speeches mercifully brief.
And briefest of all was a delighted Ben Dolan, brother of the late singer, who described it as "a great honour". And even the Transport Minister abandoned his notes and kept his remarks short as the rain hammered off the umbrella over him.
"It's also very very fitting that the bridge we're talking about will be named after Joe Dolan, although you will recall that I think it was probably the late 1960s or the early 1970s when he had a song out called 'Tar and Cement'," said Mr Dempsey.
"I think this is one of the projects that he wouldn't have objected to in that particular song. I'm tempted to go on and talk about making Mullingar an island and all the rest of it, but I won't do that, it's too wet," he said.
"Joe Dolan loved the town and his county and this is a very fitting way of saying in return that his town and his county loved him as well."
But had Mr Dempsey been a regular at a Joe Show himself? Noel looked a little aghast. "He was a bit before my time," he muttered.
Donie Cassidy, however, was a big admirer. "We're going to start a Joe Dolan trail in the town next year, where fans can visit his birthplace and see where he sang locally and so on. A bit like Elvis," explained Donie.
At the mention of Elvis, Noel's face lit up. It turns out he's a bit of a fan of The King. And he seemed quite taken with the trail idea.
"Maybe when I'm dead they can do a trail around Trim, pointing out the places I made speeches," he (presumably) joked.
So Noel likes Elvis. Hmmm, perhaps the minister does have a white suit in his wardrobe after all.