Campaigners call for vigils and protest marches for Tullamore

Locals want a new footbridge named after missing woman Fiona Pender

A campaign is underway in Tullamore to have a new canal bridge named after missing Offaly woman Fiona Pender  (above).

A campaign is underway in Tullamore to have a new canal bridge named after missing Offaly woman Fiona Pender (above).

Thu, Apr 25, 2013, 13:26

Vigils, posters and protest marches are being planned by campaigners seeking to name a replacement footbridge after missing Offaly woman Fiona Pender.

Around 100 neighbours and friends of the 25-year-old hairdresser and part-time model attended a public meeting in Tullamore on Wednesday night.

Fiona’s mother Josephine said her daughter — who was seven months pregnant when she disappeared in August 1996 had used the old bridge the day before she vanished.

More then 11,000 people have signed a petition calling for the replacement footbridge over the Grand Canal to be named in Fiona’s memory.

However, Tullamore Town Council recently adopted policy preventing infrastructure in Tullamore being named after individuals.

Campaign committee chairman, Mark Quinlan accused councillors of ignoring their constituents. “I’m really upset with the arrogance of councillors who feel they can talk down to us little people,” he remarked.

Mr Quinlan thanked Cllr Sean O’Brien(Ind) and Cllr Brendan Killeavy(SF), two of the nine elected council members who attended in support of the proposal. Of the remaining seven councillors he said, “obviously they haven’t listened to public opinion.”

While declining to name individual councillors, Mr Quinlan said he had been privately informed of their concerns about setting a precedent by naming the bridge after Fiona.

Cllr O’Brien assured the gathering that he would seek a policy amendment at the next council meeting. “This policy should have been a draft to be sent out for public consultation,” he insisted.

“There is going to be a battle at the next meeting and the following meeting,” he remarked. Cllr O’Brien is also seeking legal advice over the “rushed” policy “made to block this campaign.”

Campaign committee spokeswoman, Sabina Power asked campaigners to behave in a dignified manner. “We would ask the public not to interfere with the bridge that is being constructed,” she said.

Mr Quinlan urged people to contact their councillors and TDs in relation to the matter. While dates have yet to be set, he said vigils, a poster campaign and protest marches will take place in the coming months.

Josephine Pender attended the meeting with Ann Doherty, sister of missing Donegal girl Mary Boyle. Mrs Pender thanked Ann and her family for supporting the campaign.