Limerick’s floating Christmas Tree topples over

Petula Martyn


Petula Martyn

Limerick city’s floating Christmas tree is submerged in the Shannon after it toppled over in the river overnight.

Limerick city’s floating Christmas tree is submerged in the Shannon after it toppled over in the river overnight.

Submerged in the river by Howley’s Quay, passersby thought the 100 foot metal tree had met its watery grave but it is expected to be resurrected in the coming days by a crane which will secure it back into its upright position.

An American tourist on holidays in Limerick was amazed to discover the metal structure in the river was a steel Christmas tree. “I’m fascinated that you have a submerged Christmas tree,” said Michael Gaffey from Los Angeles. “I couldn’t at first figure out what it was. I thought it was a flotilla or a radio tower.”

The floating tree - the tallest Christmas tree in the country - has graced the Shannon River over the festive season for the past three years but may have outstayed its welcome according to a number of locals.

“It’s a waste of money,” said Pauline McKevitt from Ballynanty as she walked along Howley’s Quay this Wednesday morning. “They were going to turn it green for St Patrick’s Day. It’s a Christmas tree like...”

Mike Gough watched the sorry sight from Poor Man’s Kilkee. “The simple fact of the matter is that if you’d a Christmas tree at home, you’d have it packed away by January 6.”

It is not the first time the festive structure has made a splash. The Christmas tree crashed into Shannon Bridge when it was the casualty of the inclement weather in November 2009. It became unstuck in the fast-flowing waters of the Shannon and drifted a couple of hundred yards, coming to a grinding halt at the bridge which prevented the tree from being carried down the estuary.

The eco-friendly Christmas tree, which is made entirely from metal salvaged from Thomond Park and the Limerick Tunnel, did not break from the four two-tonne moorings that anchor it in place this week, and while mystery surrounded the reason why the tree fell over, it is now believed that the incident was due to an electrical fault.

An investigation is taking place to establish how this occurred, but one line of enquiry is that pumps in a number of the six unifloats that keep the tree buoyant failed to pump out water, became heavy with water with the rising tide causing the tree to lean over when the lighter unifloats rose up out of the water, and it eventually toppled over.

After Christmas, Limerick City Council was contacted by a number of people who suggested that the tree should be left on the river and turned into a permanent attraction. And when the tree was not removed from the water, it appeared the local authority had taken these suggestions on board.

Kieran Lehane, Director of Service, told the Limerick Leader that a meeting was due to take place next week to discuss switching the lights on the Christmas tree green for St Patrick’s Day, but it looks like this week’s incident has thrown cold water on those plans.

Talks will now be held to discuss whether the tree should be removed from the water altogether.

“It’s disappointing in one sense. I had said to people before that it should be there on a permanent basis and change the lights for St Patrick’s Day,” said Gerry McMahon from Killalee. “Personally I hope they do fix it. It should be put back on its moorings and left there permanently. London has the London Eye. We should have something. I just thought it was a nice feature.”

Geraldine Brennan who was out for her morning walk agreed. “It was so lovely to see it lit up in the water, and I thought it was a great idea having it lit up for different festivals. It is typical Limerick, they just sit on their butts, they don’t look after the beauty we have in the city any more. It is the same with our buildings.”