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Footbridge over sea gorge reopens

A footbridge spanning 164ft (50m) across a dramatic sea gorge on the south-west tip of Ireland has reopened.

After 100 years of service, the Mizen Head bridge has been faithfully reconstructed in its original style.

An estimated 50,000 people a year cross the Victorian structure, located 148ft (45m) high above the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean, which links Mizen Head Lighthouse to the mainland.

Kieran Ruane, project manager with RPS engineers, said the original 1909 structure was carefully removed and replaced with a new, replica reinforced concrete bridge.

"The successful completion of the project has preserved a landmark structure on the coast of Ireland for future generations to enjoy," he added.

The original build cost €1,462 and was considered to be the longest reinforced concrete bridge of its type in Europe at the time.

It first opened to the public in 1994 but the extreme weather conditions took its toll and it was deemed unsafe in 2005. Temporary works extended its life for another five years.

The identical rebuild cost €1.8m, funded by Failte Ireland, Cork County Council and the Commissioners of Irish Lights. The complex works were carried out by RPS, Carillion Irishenco and Cork County Council.

The new bridge is 27.5in (700mm) wider and additional recreation facilities include walkways and viewing platforms to enhance the visitor experience.

It has been shortlisted for a British Institution of Structural Engineers' Heritage Award.

Mr Ruane said access to the site was extremely difficult, via a steeply inclined footway, less than one metre wide.

"The bridge was located in an environmentally sensitive marine location and was subject to severe weather due to the exposed, coastal nature of the site," he added.

"The key challenge was to design a scheme that would allow safe demolition of the existing bridge and safe construction of a new bridge, with minimal disruption to the local environment."

The footbridge was officially reopened by Leo Varadkar, minister for transport, tourism and sport.

© Press Association