Friday 19 January 2018

Political left teamed up to secure naming of €15m bridge

DANIEL McCONNELL Political Correspondent

LEFT-wing politicians and activists conspired to secure the naming of the new €15m bridge over the River Liffey after unknown trade union activist Rosie Hackett ahead of more famous historical figures.

Documents obtained by the Sunday Independent under Freedom of Information show exactly how the left hijacked the decision-making process in order to secure Hackett's name on the bridge.

What began as a campaign by three female members of Labour Youth, quickly became a concerted effort by the political left to secure the naming of the bridge.

A plethora of high-profile names including WB Yeats, John Hume, Michael Collins, Luke Kelly, Oscar Wilde, Countess Markievicz, Maeve Binchy, Maureen Potter and Brian Boru were abandoned in favour of a handful of obscure trade unionists, sports people and community activists who made up the final shortlist of five.

Dublin City Council, which is dominated by the political left at present, formed a Commemorative Naming Committee, which was chaired by Labour councillor Dermot Lacey.

Documents obtained show that at a meeting on May 15 at City Hall, the committee "whittled down" the number of candidates from 85 to 17. Most of the high-profile candidates were excluded at this stage, while lesser-known candidates such as Hackett, Willie Bermingham and former sports personality Kay Mills remained on the list.

Other interesting names discarded at this stage were the 'Monto Bridge', a reference to Marlborough Street's more seedy past, and the Con Houlihan Bridge.

When the committee next met on June 12 the shortlist was reduced again to 10 names, and following considerable lobbying from various groups, big names like Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, James Plunkett and Lady Gregory were dropped.

A month later in July, the list of names was whittled down again to five and a complex voting preferendum system was agreed. This allowed the 51 members of the council to express more than one preference.

The final five names on the list were Bermingham, religious worker Frank Duff, Hackett, Mills and Dracula author Bram Stoker.

Of the 51 members of Dublin City Council to vote on the final decision on September 2, Hackett received 27 first-preference votes. All but one of the Labour councillors gave Hackett the number one, while Eirigi councillor Louise Minihan, and Sinn Fein councillors Criona Ni Dhalaigh, Anthony Connaghan, Larry O'Toole, Seamus McGrattan and Micheal Mac Donncha also gave Hackett their number-one vote. Independent councillors Damian O'Farrell, Cieran Perry and Niall Ring also supported Hackett's campaign.

Labour Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn said Hackett's candidature was not subject to a party whip, but the campaign for her nomination was "very effective".

He added: "I think that it was the year of the 1913 Lockout and that she was a woman (who) helped sway many people in her favour. She was a fascinating character and it also broadens our understanding of the personalities of that period."

The Hackett campaign was begun by three young women from Labour Youth, Angelina Cox, Lisa Connell and Jeni Gartland.

The Rosie Hackett Bridge campaign used Facebook, Twitter, an online petition, a public meeting and endless emails, telephone calls and meetings with the councillors to put forward the case for selecting Hackett.

Sunday Independent

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