Ennis councillors to further discuss reinstating railings around restored O’Connell monument in the county town
MEMBERS of the Ennis Municipal District have remained on the fence when it comes to the possibility of reinstating wrought-iron railings around the O’Connell monument.
Councillor Johnny Flynn has urged the municipal district to start a public consultation process on the potential of reinstating a portion of the railings at the Height.
Workers have had “unpleasant dealings with people who occupy the area” around the Height, and railings would help prevent litter in the area, he told the monthly meeting of the Ennis Municipal District.
Councillor Flynn said the work would “complement and enhance” planned public realm works in O’Connell Square and Bank Place as well as the conservation works on the O’Connell monument.
“Such works could also be seen to be complementary to proposals incorporated in the current Part 8 planning application for welcome public realm upgrades to O’Connell Street and Barrack Street,” said the councillor.
He said the issue is of “historical importance” and that old photographs show the railings as part of the decoration around the monument. Though seconding the motion, Councillor Paul Murphy said he is “generally against barriers”.
“I’m not saying I am in favour of it, but it is worth talking about,” he said.
He recalled how he has called in the past for greater recognition of Ennis’ connection to Daniel O’Connell, suggesting that the county town’s Niche Destination Plan could capitalise on this as a way of drawing visitors.
Councillor Mary Howard also voiced hesitancy about the railings, though she believed it should be open to discussion. She put forward the idea of using hedging around the Height.
“It is a very important site in the town, anytime there is a festival it is a magnet for people.”
She acknowledged that there is an issue with anti-social behaviour, suggesting that pavement fountains might act as a deterrent.
“I don’t think barriers are the way to go, it’s probably the most important location in the town,” she said.
Councillor Pat Daly said he “always felt the monument was an open space for the people of Ennis”.
Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy backed further discussion of the railings, saying it is “disheartening going by the monument and seeing what is going on there”.
Candace Ingram, executive planner, responding to the motion, stated that the O’Connell Monument is listed on the Record of Protected Structures and is also included on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
“Neither the RPS or the NIAH descriptions of the monument make reference to railings around the monument,” she stated.
She said it is an objective of the County Development Plan “to protect, as set out in the Record of Protected Structures, all structures and their settings, which are of special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social, or technical interest”.
She outlined that there would be no exemption under the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 for the erection of railings around the monument. Therefore, any such proposal would require Part 8 consent.
“The proposal for the upgrading of the public realm of O’Connell Square was informed by the Ennis Town Centre document.
Said document was titled ‘A detailed study of the potential of Parnell Street as a Heritage and Cultural Quarter including the feasibility of covering part or all of the street and the redesign of O’Connell Square to enhance civic use, pedestrian comfort and a better setting for the monument’ (December 2016), commissioned by Clare County Council in association with the CEDRA Rural Economic Development Zone (REDZ) initiative.
“As part of the overall redevelopment of O’Connell Square new seating areas to the west of the O’Connell Monument and also stepped areas to the south contribute to creating a flexible space which can accommodate various uses/events.
“It is important to consider any potential impact of installing railings on both the context and setting of the protected structure, as well as on future active uses of this public space,” said Ms Ingram.
“The maintenance of the area within the railings would also need consideration, in particular the potential for littering to occur.
“It is suggested that should this proposal progress further that there should be consultation with the O’Connell Square project design team and also with the Planning Department to determine the appropriateness for the inclusion of the railings in the reconfiguration of the Square.”
It was agreed that the proposal would be discussed further.