Monday 29 September 2008

O'Connell monument must be moved for Metro work

THE O'CONNELL monument, which survived the devastation of O'Connell Street during the 1916 Rising and the Civil War, will have to be taken down from its pivotal position to facilitate a huge excavation for one of the underground stops on Metro North.

Other statuary scheduled for temporary removal include the William Smith O'Brien monument on O'Connell Street, the Thomas Moore statue on College Street, and the statues of Lord Ardilaun and Robert Emmet and O'Donovan Rossa memorial in St Stephen's Green.

The Fusiliers' Arch at the northwest corner of the green would have to be removed for the construction of a terminal stop at this location. Railings and trees would also have to be removed as some 20 per cent of the green becomes a building site.

So would the African Rose bowl, erected as recently as 2006, as well as "foot rails, perimeter railings, perimeter granite footpath, granite bollards and metal bollards and Victorian landscaping, including the Pulham rock", according to the the Railway Procurement Agency's Environmental Impact Statement.

St Stephen's Green itself is a national monument. "Detailed requirements and mitigation measures [in relation to the green] have been agreed with the Office of Public Works and the Department of the Environment", it says.

Mitigation measures for the green, which is owned and managed by the OPW, include the replacement of felled trees from the Victorian period with semi-mature trees and "the re-instatement of the existing pond, monuments, walls and railings and Fusilier's Arch".The green is protected by an 1877 Act of Parliament, that would have to be amended to permit part of it to be destroyed by the metro project.

No "method statement" showing how the O'Connell Monument, the Fusiliers' Arch or any other monuments are to be dismantled is included in the lengthy, three-volume statement. But Dublin City Council will be seeking such a statement from the agency.

In 2005, the council spent €300,000 on cleaning and restoring the monument and other statuary in O'Connell Street.

The monument, designed by noted Irish sculptor John Henry Foley, is a tripartite structure in granite and bronze, erected by public subscription in 1882.

Apart from the statue, it has a drum depicting his triumphs and four winged figures at its base. Dismantling it all would be the first of the preliminary works for the O'Connell Bridge underground stop. Construction would involve digging out a deep box on O'Connell Street and another on Westmoreland Street, linked by a tunnel beneath the River Liffey.

"Construction of all elements of the O'Connell Bridge stop will take four years to complete, which is the longest single task in the overall construction phase", the statement says. A 30-metre length of the river would be "decked over" to provide a working area.

Construction of a temporary bridge from Eden Quay to Burgh Quay to cater for some of the traffic diverted from O'Connell Street would result in the "temporary removal of part of the quay wall [a recorded monument] on both sides of the river," it says.

A total of 14 buildings, mainly houses, would have to be demolished along the 18km route between Belinstown, north of Swords, and St Stephen's Green. The most notable landmark is St Vincent's Centre for the Deaf on Drumcondra Road, facing the top of Clonliffe Road.

According to the agency, its demolition is required "to create a plaza area for passengers accessing the stop from Drumcondra Road". It is also needed to provide a works site for a cut-and-cover excavation for the stop, that would link up with the adjoining Maynooth rail line.

Demolition of the four-storey building and its chapel was also chosen because it would avoid diverting traffic and utilities on Drumcondra Road - the main route between the city centre and Dublin airport - if it had been encroached on to dig out the huge station box.

Other buildings scheduled for demolition are six houses on nearby St Alphonsus Avenue, two on North Circular Road, three in Leo Street, Phibsboro, as well as Westfield House on Ballymun Road and another house at Albert College Lawn, adjoining DCU.

All the property owners have been informed, it says. "Compensation will be made to those whose properties will be demolished. Sensitive design and reinstating current land uses where possible will mitigate the impact of these permanent land-takes".

However, in some cases where the demolition of buildings was required for the Sandyford and Tallaght Luas lines, sites remain derelict four years after these lines opened. Old Dundrum Railway Station, a protected structure, is now a fire-damaged, roofless shell.

The Metro North construction programme would result in "some negative socio-economic impacts", particularly in areas of retail, commercial and office-based employment, such as Westmoreland Street and O'Connell Street as well as in Ballymun, it concedes.

The level of disruption is not specifically quantified, although it would be much more severe and last longer than during construction of the two Luas lines through Abbey Street or Harcourt Street. The statement does say that footways of at least three metres would be maintained.

As a result of road closures, bus routes would be diverted and bus stops relocated. "In particular, over 150 bus routes in the city centre will be altered due to the closure of roads that are heavily used by buses, such as Westmoreland Street," the statement says.

• Copies of the full Environmental Impact Statement may be inspected at the offices of the Railway Procurement Agency in Parkgate Business Centre, Parkgate Street, at Dublin City Council's civic offices at Wood Quay, or at the offices of An Bord Plean├íla at 64, Marlborough Street.

The Irish Times

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