Repair work will be carried out on O'Connell Bridge in Dublin by the end of the summer after the discovery of a large number of suspected stress cracks and a missing section of parapet which is believed to have broken away and plunged into the river.
Dublin City Council has confirmed that it is to undertake remedial works at the busy bridge over the coming weeks to replace the parts that have been damaged.
It is now feared that the rising level of the Liffey is causing the water to crash against the tops of the bridges on the Quays rather than simply passing underneath, thereby causing structural damage. The council has been urged to establish a major investigation.
A report commissioned last year by the city authority warned that rising tides in the river due to global warming could lead to further incidents of flooding in the capital. But according to the National Conservation and Heritage Group (NCHG), the rising water levels pose as much of a threat of bridge damage as they do of flooding.
The potential danger posed to the capital's bridges cannot be assessed without sending engineers to examine the foundations of the structures, the group claims.
In support of their claim, they say O'Connell Bridge has recently lost a large section of parapet on one side of the structure, a concrete pillar from one of the rails, and cite the emergence of a worrying amount of stress cracks.
While the damage may seem insignificant, the NCHG believes it is an indicator of a potentially more serious problem.
"It may be an exaggeration to say 'Dublin bridge is falling down' but it is certainly in need of attention," said the NCHG's Damien Cassidy. "The only way we will know if it's in danger of falling down is if you had a diver down there looking at the foundations."
A spokeswoman for the council said that a complete examination of O'Connell Bridge was carried out four years ago and it was found to be in perfect condition.