Thursday 17 October 2019

Vote will see iconic bridge named after Rose Kennedy

Ross councillors favour Kennedy over Pink Rock by a small majority

Photograph of the new bridge courtesy of insta_mavic
Photograph of the new bridge courtesy of insta_mavic

David Looby

Ireland's longest bridge will finally be named in a fortnight's time after councillors in Piltown and New Ross voted by a small majority last week in favour of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy name at separate council meetings.

Both New Ross and Piltown Municipal District Councils met last week where the long-running saga of what to call the new bridge took up considerable time at both meetings.

In New Ross, Cllr Michael Sheehan went against his colleagues and opted for the William Marshal Bridge, with the seven other councillors voting for the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Bridge.

Over in Piltown, five out of the six sitting councillors voted for the Pink Rock Bridge. However, the fact that a single councillor in Piltown voted in favour of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy means that, as it stands, the vote is at 8-6 in favour of naming the 887m bridge after John F Kennedy's mother.

New Ross and Piltown councillors will meet together on October 3 at the Rhu Gleen Hotel in Slieverue, where the name will be voted on for a final time. If all 14 councillors from New Ross and Piltown vote as per last week, the iconic bridge will officially be named the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Bridge, ending a two-year saga over what to call the impressive structure.

District director Eamonn Hore said there were many names put forward to both the Piltown and the New Ross councils. 'Piltown suggested the Pink Rock name,' he said.

In a public submissions process in May there were 142 valid submissions from County Wexford residents and 47 different names were suggested. 71 valid submissions were received in Kilkenny, with 30 names proposed.

27 people made submissions for the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy name to New Ross Municipal District, followed by 17 for the Pink Rock Bridge and 16 for the William Marshal Bridge. One person suggested the Michael D Higgins Bridge. Mr Hore said: 'The bypass will have a defining impact on the town of New Ross. It will be a catalyst for improved quality of life and future prosperity for the town and the region.'

He said we are ten months out from the opening of the bypass, which, he said, will fundamentally change New Ross town. 'Whilst the entire N25 New Ross bypass represents an amazing technical and construction undertaking, there can be little doubt that the magnificent bridge over the River Barrow is the outstanding technical achievement in all of Ireland in recent times and a technical achievement of international standing.'

Cllr Willie Fitzharris said: 'The public supported the decision made in this chamber without any shadow of a doubt and I would be very supportive of the name, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. The public have had their say and I think they should be listened to.'

Mr Hore said: 'I have every confidence that the elected members will come to an agreement at that meeting.'

Cllr Michael Whelan agreed that the public are behind the Kennedy name. 'We have to go out of here united to the joint meeting with Piltown. Are they going to stand behind our decision?'

'It might come down to persuasion,' Mr Hore said. Cllr Larry O'Brien said: 'This got out of hand. The bridge is going from County Wexford into County Kilkenny. The people of Dunganstown should have been asked to name the bridge as it's in their parish. It's not a New Ross bridge; it's a Dunganstown bridge.'

He said the people of Dunganstown want the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy name and asked if there is a casting vote in the process. 'We just have to be ready for all eventualities,' he said, highlighting the need for a full compliment of members to be behind the name. Mr Hore said: 'This was a really well publicised bridge naming. We even had submission forms at the Killag Show. The names and figures that came forward are very interesting.'

Cllr Oisin O'Connell said he was very satisfied with the process. 'It has been very well thought out and open. I can accept that some of my personal favourites didn't get through. The name people preferred has heritage and would spark people's imagination. The roots of the Kennedy and Fitzgerald names go into both localities and the economic factor is a big one, along with the personal connections. I am very happy with Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy as it works on many levels, including social inclusion.'

He said the name is steeped in Norman and Gaelic history, adding that Rose Kennedy name is known throughout the world, adding that from a tourism and an economic viewpoint it also works.

Mr Hore said: 'There was careful consideration given to the names. I think they can all be developed in the future. Look at the Kennedy and Fitzgerald Norman connections. Maybe people aren't aware of what we're doing with them. On the Norman end, the town of New Ross is being branded on the bypass as a Norman Heritage town. We have the Norman Way and we have three priceless Norman monuments in Tintern Abbey, Hook Lighthouse and St Mary's Church. They all have Kilkenny connections as well.'

Cllr Sheehan questioned why the matter was listed 'so low on the agenda' He said the new bridge is an important piece of infrastructure, calling for the matter to be deferred to allow members more time to decide what name to bring forward to the joint meeting. 'To be given the report today and to be asked to make a decision irrespective of what the meeting in progress is. I have no difficulty with the submissions but this lands on the table as a fait accompli'

Mr Hore said: 'I have no issue if you want to take it away and come back for a special meeting.'

Cathaoirleach Cllr John Fleming said: 'We all know the name of the bridge and we are aware for years. It's on the agenda where it should be. It's there in black and white. It's not an issue for anyone else here but for the same person as usual.'

Cllr O'Brien said the name was arrived at through a fair process. 'Are we going to say we shouldn't have asked the people. They have spoken.'

Cllr Fleming agreed, saying: 'Look at the crowds that came to the town for the Kennedy Summer School.'

Cllr Anthony Connick said: 'We all knew it was coming up. With the publicity it got I found it absolutely astonishing that only 142 people made a submission on such a big issue. I supported the name from the first day. It was a history lesson. The director gave a mind blowing presentation. Kilkenny didn't carry on like this. They put through their recommendation.'

Cllr Sheehan proposed the William Marshal Bridge name but had no seconder. The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy name was approved by a 7-1 majority, having been proposed by Cllr O'Brien on the basis that it was the public's choice. In opposing the proposal, Cllr Sheehan said: 'That is democracy. People are allowed to talk in a democracy without being smeared.'

Cllr Fitzharris asked if all councillors would support the Kennedy name at the joint meeting. Mr Hore said: 'Cllr Sheehan is entitled to his opinion and I have no problem with that.'

Speaking after the meeting Mr Hore said a survey carried out recently found that 80 per cent of people think New Ross should use the Kennedy brand name. 'There would be no John F Kennedy Arboretum, Homestead or Dunbrody centre without the Kennedy name. It's a no brainer. I thought it was genius when Gene Kennedy Smith came up with the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy name as it works on so many levels for New Ross.'

Cllr Sheehan said he favours the William Marshal name, believing the town's authorities are overusing the name of Kennedy.

New Ross Standard