'Ice' tourism boost for Tree of Life fountain outside Limerick Prison

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

The frozen tree of life -water fountain- inside the railings of Limerick Prison on Mulgrave Street Picture: Jude Molloy

The frozen tree of life -water fountain- inside the railings of Limerick Prison on Mulgrave Street Picture: Jude Molloy

LIMERICK received an unexpected tourism boost during Storm Emma after the inclement weather drew crowds to a sculpture outside the prison on Mulgrave Street in the city.

With roads, railings and walls coated by snow and ice, the Tree of Life fountain outside Limerick Prison had a special look, as the liquid froze in mid-flow. ​

Councillor Jerry O’Dea, who runs his family pub in the vicinity, noticed during the big freeze a number of tourists approaching the artwork, seeking selfies with the fountain, which featured on the front page of last weekend’s Limerick Leader city edition.

“The way it froze over gave it a new life of its own. I was up there myself, and met some local people taking selfies. But there were also people visiting from abroad. I asked them how they had heard about it, and they told me it was all over the internet,” he explained.

“The tree for me is a real sign of hope and regeneration. I’m delighted the governor made the funds available for it.”

The Tree of Life was created by artist JJ Hegarty, a teacher in the prison.

“It symbolises balance, learning, growth, harmony, strength and stability within our greatest challenges. It also has been interpreted as beauty, strength, wisdom, eternal life. It’s quite interesting, because as the title goes ‘Tree of Life’. It has taken on a life of its own,” JJ said.

Prison governor Mark Kennedy said the attention the street has received has been “unexpected” to say the least.

“It’s a beautiful piece of art in itself. Behind every leaf there is a commemoration of people who have passed away in the lives of prisoners, and the wider community. With the inclement weather we have been having, queues formed on Mulgrave Street to see this,” he added.

JJ says his next aim is to build a chair structure beside the Tree of Life to allow people to observe it at close quarters.