Cllr Frankie Daly with Stephen Hall, Keith O'Brien and Ger Carey, installing the lifebuoy Picture: Adrian Butler
TWO LIFEBUOYS have been erected on Sarsfield Bridge in Limerick city following a backlash from the public, after council officials earlier said they could not be erected as it is a protected structure.
Council workers erected the life-saving devices at the centre and at either side of the bridge this Wednesday afternoon - a move which was praised by local independent councillor Frankie Daly, who said he was thankful that “common sense prevailed”.
“It's absolutely welcome. I'm glad that we have cut through the bureaucracy and it's very welcome for the families who have lost loved ones in the River Shannon,” said councillor Daly.
He said the fact that hanging baskets of flowers were already erected over the bridge rightly further engaged locals in Limerick, which in recent years has had one of the highest suicide rates in the country.
He praised Fianna Fail councillor Sean Lynch, a former detective with Roxboro Road garda station in the city, in bringing the motion to council chambers last week.
During the meeting, Cllr Lynch put forward a notice of motion calling on Limerick City and County Council to place a lifebuoy in the centre of Sarsfield Bridge "as a matter of urgency”.
However, he was informed by senior executive officer Christy O’Connor that the council was “not allowed attach any fixture” to the bridge as it is a protected structure.
The bridge dates back to 1835, opening after 11 years of construction, following its design by Scottish engineer Alexander Nimmo, who based its design on the Pont de Neuilly in Paris.
“There are 50 life belts located throughout the city centre at regular intervals along the various water bodies,” Mr O’Connor added.
The council came under further pressure when a Limerick mother, whose son died after entering the river in December last, said that not placing a lifebuoy on the bridge “shows a protected structure is valued more than a life.”
Majella Cosgrove made a passionate plea calling on the local authority to reverse their decision not to provide a lifebuoy in the middle of Sarsfield Bridge.
Mayor of Limerick, Fianna Fail councillor Kieran O'Hanlon decided to intervene after he heard Ms Cosgrove’s plea on local radio.
“For anybody to lose a son or daughter it is tragic in its own right, but to lose them in these circumstances was extremely difficult. I got annoyed myself as mayor,” he said.
Mayor O’Hanlon said that the chief executive of the council, Conn Murray, had spoken to engineers and asked them to find a solution to the problem.
“As far as I’m concerned, a life is worth more than any bridge or any building or any rules or regulations,” said Mayor O'Hanlon.
“I’m absolutely delighted that there is going to be a lifebuoy there," said Ms Cosgrove.
"It’s sad to think that I had to go on the radio to spell it out for them.”
An online petition was also initiated, entitled Stop a Bridge Being More Protected than a Life.