Millennium Spire given go-ahead by council vote

 

Dublin City Council decided last night that O'Connell Street would get its 120 metre Millennium Spire on the site of Nelson Pillar, despite a chorus of opposition from members of the public who described it as "meaningless", "nihilistic" and "a waste of money".

After a lengthy debate in the Oak Room of the Mansion House - its temporary meeting place while the City Hall is being renovated - councillors decided the issue by an overwhelming majority of 34 votes to 14. The project will now go to tender with a a view to completion by the end of December.

Strong views were expressed on both sides, with two brothers even voting in opposite directions. The motion was proposed by Mr John Stafford TD, who inaugurated plans for the renaissance of O'Connell Street when he was Lord Mayor last year. But his brother, Mr Tom Stafford, spoke and voted against it.

Mr Ian Ritchie, the London-based architect who won a major international competition for the project, said he was delighted by the outcome. Earlier, he told the city council he was "extremely proud" of his commission to provide Dublin "with a new symbol that reaches for the sky".

The Labour Party leader on the council, Mr Paddy Burke, said that "as a socialist" he might have preferred the £3 million budget to be spent on the homeless but he accepted the view of the city manager, Mr John Fitzgerald, that money alone would not solve the "complex problem" of homelessness.

Alderman Pat Carey TD, leader of the Fianna Fail group, said the spire would help to transform O'Connell Street into a Dublin version of the Champs Elysees. This view was echoed by others including Ms Mary Frehill (Lab) who described it as a "very positive and confident statement about the new Ireland".

But her party colleague Mr Eamon O'Brien said the people of Dublin had not been given "any say" in making the decision. Mr Vincent Jackson (Ind) also believed such decisions should not be left to the "self-opinionated" of a competition jury. To him the spire was "reminiscent of Moscow in the 1960s".

Two Labour councillors, Ms Roisin Shortall TD and Mr Dermot Lacey, said they just didn't like it, try as they might. However, two others - Mr Derek McDowell TD, and Mr Michael Conaghan - were strongly in favour and Mr Tony Gregory, TD (Ind) felt the spire would tilt the balance in favour of the northside.

After the historic roll call vote was taken, the council adopted without debate plans for a second pedestrian bridge between Ormond Quay and Wellington Quay. Designed by Howley Harrington architects, this is also intended to reach out to the northside as a companion of the 180-year-old Ha'penny Bridge.