Thursday 14 May 2009

Capital welcome as Beckett makes its grand entrance slides into place after epic journey

"It'" For a moment, the little boy thought old Samuel Beckett had got wedged between the quay wall and the side of the raised East Link Bridge in Dublin -- not a good thing to happen to a new €60m investment.

Thankfully, the engineers and the pilot of the tug 'Deilginnis' managed to avoid potential headlines such as 'Bridge Of Sighs' or 'A Bridge Too Far'.

Five minutes after it stopped yesterday, the tug puttered into life and things began moving again.

"Jaysus that's a relief," cried one man.

It wasn't really. The experts were just being careful and, rather than having inches to spare, the boat people had several metres to play with.

The 120-metre long 'Samuel Beckett' -- Dublin's newest bridge -- had just come upriver on the back of a vast barge from Rotterdam. The East Link is seldom lifted but it was yesterday, just before 2.30pm, when the structure arrived at the mouth of the port.

Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who also designed the city's James Joyce bridge, has created a structure officially described as 'cable-stayed, with a curving incline and steel pylon'.

Like the James Joyce, the bridge is named after another of the country's greatest writers and looks like a giant white harp.

Hundreds of Dubliners had gathered to watch along Sir John Rogerson's Quay and North Wall Quay as it was eased along at a crawl.

Among the crowd was Fianna Fail MEP Eoin Ryan, who had taken time off from campaigning to rubber neck with everyone else.

"It's an occasion isn't it?" he said, as others, including actor Barry McGovern, who has performed Beckett's one-man plays, joined the throng.

Sir John Rogerson himself would have marvelled at how much change there has been since his day.

The former Lord Mayor of Dublin built the quay in 1712 to allow deep water moorage, in a city reliant on goods being delivered by tall ships.

Now, much of the former dock area is gone and has been replaced by swanky office blocks and buildings, among them the new National Convention Centre.

Workers in the area took a few minutes to watch yesterday, their noses pressed to glass windows as the 'Deilginnis' inched forward.

The bridge had been floated across the English Channel from the Graham-Hollandia shipyard in Rotterdam and came through the East Link at high tide.

Over the next month, it will be be carefully positioned by engineers, linking north and south sides of the Liffey and, officials hope, eventually easing some traffic problems.

Yesterday, though, was all about the spectacle.

"It's amazing -- the things they can do these days," said one elderly observer, shaking his head.

Ciaran Byrne
Irish Independent

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