Opponents of Kilkenny bridge stage ‘Phil Hogan protest’

Demonstrators bearing face of new Irish EU commissioner fear damage to medieval city

Opponents of a controversial scheme to build a bridge in the centre of medieval Kilkenny City have taken to the streets of the city wearing Phil Hogan masks. Photograph: Vicky Comerford.

Opponents of a controversial scheme to build a bridge in the centre of medieval Kilkenny City have taken to the streets of the city wearing Phil Hogan masks. Photograph: Vicky Comerford.

 

Opponents of a controversial scheme to build a bridge in the centre of medieval Kilkenny City have taken to the streets wearing Phil Hogan masks.

They called on the former minister for the environment to “stop the madness” of the much criticised Central Access Scheme (CAS), a multi-million euro project that includes the construction of a new bridge over the River Nore.

Demonstrators walked through the town yesterday carrying signs with slogans “uproar on the Nore” and “no upheaval, keep it medieval”.

The protest was part of a wave of local dissent against the access scheme, which was approved by An Board Pleanála in 2011.

“We wanted to draw attention to a very serious thing in a very lighthearted way,” said protestor Daragh Byrne.

He said the goal of the ongoing “peaceful protest” was to interrupt the installation of steel supports for the bridge. If the crew cannot install the supports by the end of September, construction will cease until next year due to an agreement with local fisheries.

Until the end of September, protestors plan to use a “frog squad” of 50 canoes and a raft that is “manned 24-hours a day” to paddle so close to the building site that construction will halt for health and safety reasons.

“The lack of public consultation on this project is crazy,” said Mr Byrne.

An 8,000-signature petition was presented to Kilkenny County Council recently.

Kilkenny County Council last month held an emergency meeting to address a motion calling for a review of the scheme. The council determined that it had no statutory power to review the scheme or halt works.

Opponents of the scheme, including the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, An Taisce and Complete the Kilkenny Ring Road Campaign, fear the bridge will bring more traffic through the city’s medieval centre and call for the multimillion euro budget to be used to complete a ring road to keep traffic out of the city centre.

The northern part of the ring road is unfinished and is expected to stay that way until at least 2024.

Those in support of the plan, including Kilkenny County Council, claim that construction delays have cost €150,000 and that a new bridge is necessary to alleviate traffic caused by the pedestrianisation of many of the city’s streets.