The planned installation of a Chinese “friendship garden” in Dublin’s Herbert Park will not go ahead next month, due to the decision of the Chinese sponsor city to reassess its support for the project.
The Yi Garden, which translates as "garden of friendship" was exhibited as one of the show gardens in Bloom in the Phoenix Park in June 2016. The following month Dublin city councillors were told the garden had been offered to the council "as a bridge of friendship connecting Ireland and China".
Deputy council chief executive, Brendan Kenny, then in charge of culture and recreation, told councillors the Chinese Embassy has requested that, "if possible, the garden be located in a park close to the Chinese embassy on Merrion Road".
In his report to councillors in July 2016 Mr Kenny said: “Herbert Park, the most prestigious park in the area is considered fitting as a permanent location for the garden. The exact location within the park would be adjacent to the gate entrance from the new street ( at Herbert Park Hotel) which leads to the pond.”
The garden was designed in a style popular in Yangzhou City, in Jiangsu province, an ancient city famous for its gardens, Islamic relics and ancient shrines. It included a pagoda-style shelter, planting, seating, a rockery, a pond and waterfall.
"Yangzhou City will cover the cost of the garden construction on site by Chinese craftsmen who will travel from China. There will also be ancillary costs for Dublin City Council which can be covered in the existing Parks budget," Mr Kenny said.
However, the garden never went ahead.
Last April, the council’s senior executive parks superintendent Michael Noonan told councillors the project was still going ahead. Work would begin in September and take approximately six weeks, he said.
In a further update last month, Mr Noonan said a new location on the western side of the park, close to tearoom and toilets, on a "disused hard surface area" had been chosen for the garden.
However, this week Mr Noonan told councillors he had “been advised by our Chinese partners” that work on the garden would not go ahead in September to allow a “re-evaluation of the project”.
Olga Wang, culture and tourism attaché with the Chinese Embassy in Dublin, said the embassy was not involved in the project.
“Most of the staff came in 2017 the year after the garden arrangement,” she said. “We encourage any project that benefits cultural exchanges but we are not involved in this.”