Boyne bridge: Louth councillors vote to re-name bridge

Shane Harrison reports for BBC Newsline

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Louth County councillors have voted to re-name the bridge over the River Boyne in honour of Mary McAleese, the former president of Ireland.

The ballot on Monday was close and was only passed with the casting vote of the council chairman.

At her inauguration and in her 1997 presidential campaign Mrs McAleese promised to be a bridge-builder.

In the view of many, especially in the wake of the Queen's visit to Ireland last year, it was a promise delivered.

Fine Gael senator from Dundalk in north Louth, Jim Darcy, had proposed naming a bridge after her, but not any old bridge, the one on the Belfast to Dublin motorway near the historic Battle of the Boyne site.

'Symbolic'

He said: "She spent 14 years working at that job and I think she achieved a tremendous amount.

"So, I would like to see this iconic bridge, a modern elegant structure, symbolic of the modern Ireland, named after Mary McAleese, who is herself such a person."

The motorway structure, officially called the Boyne Cable Bridge, joins Counties Louth and Meath.

Meath County Council had already voted to re-brand it as the Mary McAleese Bridge.

But, since then, there has been growing opposition in Drogheda, the south Louth town nearest to the modernist bridge.

Labour Mayor Paul Bell said it was a very bad idea, both because it singled out one individual involved in the peace process, and because the word Boyne is so important to the town's marketing and sense of self-image.

"This is actually the site where William of Orange crossed the river Boyne onto the other side at Oldbridge," he said.

"So, it is full of history and I do believe that Mrs McAleese would fully understand that it's best left alone.

"For years it's never caused an issue and the people of Drogheda believe it's part of their identity and wish it to remain as the Boyne Cable Bridge."

Ahead of the vote, the mayor appeared to have the overwhelming support of his townspeople.

'Good president'
Bridge on M1 motorway near Drogheda The bridge spans the River Boyne and the boundary of Counties Louth and Meath

One man said: "There were so many involved in the peace process, why would you single out one in particular?"

According to another: "Mary McAleese was a good president but she's not from this area, so I don't think it should be called after her."

But one woman thought it would be good to have the bridge called "after a lady for a change because she represented the country very well" while another woman had a possible compromise idea for the councillors.

She said: "On account of the Battle of the Boyne it still should be named Boyne.

"But could they not call it the McAleese Boyne Bridge. I think that would be nice."

And there was a compromise proposal at Monday's Louth County Council meeting.

Councillors still voted by the narrowest of margins to re-brand the bridge as the Mary McAleese Boyne Valley Bridge.

That means the structure now has three names, one official and 2 proposed.

It is now believed Meath councillors will have to vote again on Louth's proposed name for the change to come into effect.

But Drogheda's mayor said he would not be going to any ceremony to re-name the bridge after Mary McAleese because he did not believe he had a democratic mandate to do so.

Like the motorway itself, the saga of the bridge name still has a bit of mileage left in it yet.

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