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That's the lock, the lock of love

The padlocks on the Ha'penny bridge symbolise forever love, but they present a big problem, writes Stephen Hanlon

IT'S a serious case of "love locked down" on Dublin's Ha'penny Bridge as dozens of young loved-up couples have been linking padlocks to the bridge as a sign of their binding love.

Almost a hundred padlocks have been attached to the bridge so far with most of them including a short romantic message. Some of the couples even inscribe their names or initials on the locks and throw the keys into the Liffey as a symbol of their "everlasting love".

One American couple visiting Dublin for the weekend described the padlocks as "strange, yet romantic."

"We have nothing like this where we come from. We usually carve our initials into a tree or something. It's just one of many new experiences we'll be bringing back home with us. Who knows, maybe it will catch on over there too."

Irish couples aren't the only ones taking part in this tradition. Many foreign couples visiting Dublin have also journeyed to the bridge to add a "love lock" of their own in the hopes that it will make their love "flourish and prosper".

Hard-hearted city authorities vowed to remove the "love padlocks" which started appearing in their hundreds during the latter end of 2011, and they did so in January earlier this year. However, after a few months of the Ha'penny Bridge being a lock-free zone, the tradition is now back and as popular as ever.

The padlocks have been called an eyesore on the public structure and according to the Dublin City Council, they can cause corrosion and further damage the bridge when being removed.

A number of locks were briefly attached to Dublin's Millennium Bridge, before they too were removed.

Labour councillor Padraig McLaughlin feels that the reappearance of the "love locks" is a shame and disrespectful to the heritage of Dublin City.

"There is no gain to it. It's vandalism. It's a nice sentiment but there are better ways to do it than violating a piece of Dublin heritage," he said.

The Ha'penny Bridge is one of the most well-known landmarks in Dublin city centre. The bridge opened in 1816 over the River Liffey and links Temple Bar with Liffey Street.

While this tradition is new in Ireland, it has been quite common in a number of European cities over the past few years with "love locks" having been sighted in Paris and Cologne. The most famous case took place in Florence when the local council were criticised by residents for removing more than 5,000 padlocks from the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, when the weight of them threatened to collapse the structure.

While the padlocks can still be seen on the Dublin bridge, it is expected that Dublin City Council will make good on their promise and remove any and all locks attached to it as soon as possible.

Sunday Independent