ENNIS councillors have voted overwhelmingly against a proposal to examine the potential of installing wrought iron railings around the O’Connell Monument.
The idea was put forward by Councillor Johnny Flynn who pointed to the historic location being “used as a public toilet” along with “very disturbing” amounts of rubbish and passersby being “jeered and leered at” by people congregating in the area.
The proposal was made at the monthly meeting of the Ennis Municipal District where his fellow councillors rejected the idea voting six against with Councillor Flynn’s the only vote in favour.
Making the case for a public consultation process to begin Councillor Flynn stated that the area known locally as the Height had historically been surrounded with wrought iron railings.
He said that re-installing suitable railings would complement and enhance improvement works for the Square and Bank Place and the conservation works currently underway on the monument. It would also complement proposals incorporated into the current Part 8 planning application for public realm upgrades to O’Connell Street and Barrack Street.
He added that the railings could feature a gate which would still allow people to gather at the monument to speak from at events as has become tradition. Councillor Flynn stated the railings would bring the O’Connell Monument “back to its original beauty”.
In response to the motion, the council 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. The erection of railings would require Part 8 consent, the meeting was told.
Councillor Mary Howard stated she could not support the motion, expressing the belief that installing railings would “do more harm than good”.
As a member of the Ennis Tidy Towns she said she is “well aware of what’s going on, but all this would do is push the issue some place else. At least in the Square it is quite safe as there is good CCTV coverage there.”
Councillor Paul Murphy described the issue as “divisive enough” adding a consensus would need to be reached before any decisions are made.
Councillor Pat Daly insisted “I’m totally against railings, the monument is a part of the town and it is for the people of Ennis.” He said that the council should meet with gardaí to discuss any issues with anti-social behaviour.
Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy agreed that the discussion should be had, however voiced uncertainty about the proposal.
Leonore O’Neill, Senior Executive Officer with the Ennis Municipal District stated that the public realm works are designed to enhance the civic use of the Height as a whole. She added that the railings do not form part of the heritage of the area and even if the council agreed to install them, a Part 8 process would need to be undergone.
Councillor Flynn suggested a “light touch” public consultation, similar to the pedestrianisation survey, could be carried out to determine public opinion.
Councillor Colleran Molloy asked what the costing would be, saying that there are other matters the council cannot fund while this proposal does not have the support of all seven councillors.
Mayor of Ennis Councillor Ann Norton suggested that the issue be discussed further. Councillor Flynn drew a line on the discussion and called for a vote on his proposal. Councillor Flynn voted for, Councillors Howard, Nestor, Murphy, Daly, Norton and Colleran Molloy voted against and the proposal was defeated.