The Lady In The Raft

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raftlady

Anne Cody and the ‘Noreship Enterprise’ on the Nore River at Kilkenny

A novice activist, Anne Cody took to ‘saving Kilkenny’ like a duck to water.

Anne writes:

Take a leisurely stroll through the streets of Kilkenny. Where else would you see so many buildings of historical and archaeological beauty in so short a distance?

Kilkenny Castle and parklands, St Mary’s Church and graveyard, The Kilkenny Design Centre and craft workshops, The Hole in the Wall, Rothe House and walled gardens, St Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower, The Black Abbey, The Butterslip, Market slip, The Old Jail and Courthouse, The Shee Alms House etc.

I don’t know the dates for these streets and buildings but I do know that Kilkenny is the most beautiful, walkable city in Ireland and while I was not born here and I do not live within its walls it is my city and I am very proud of it.

At first I didn’t believe it when I heard that ‘they’ were planning to build an extremely wide concrete bridge over the River Nore in the shadow of St Canice’s Cathedral, near to Green’s Bridge.

I would state exactly how wide this bridge will be but specific information relating to the bridge seems to be very difficult to get from the County Council I understand however that the proposed structure will be wider than the one built to take the traffic on the ring road.

I became quite angry when I realised that the building of this bridge was imminent.
I began to wonder if the end of the city near Green’s Bridge was not valued as much as the area around the Castle.

I could see that the council’s acquisition of the extensive river side Diagio site including the historic St Francis’s Abbey , provided a wonderful opportunity for creating an imaginative urban space that would attract tourists, enhance the life of Kilkenny people, support local businesses and protect the ambiance of the medieval city.

It might include a riverside park, a jetty for small boats, or maybe an intergenerational college of law, empowerment and civic responsibility where innovative and creative thinking and action are positively encouraged. At this point my imagination runs dry but that doesn’t matter because within the residential and business community of Kilkenny City and County I am sure there are many excellent, innovative ideas. I get quite excited and passionate when I think of the possibilities.

A dirty, great, big, concrete bridge would, be a serious impediment to the creation of such a space. It makes much more sense to have a comprehensive development plan for the area and if a bridge is needed then build one that is sensitive to the medieval heritage of the city.
Of course, if the proposed bridge in all its splendid ugliness were to improve the flow of traffic in the city then this would be a significant point in its favour.

Now at this point I am really struggling for words. Despite asking questions and listening to many different people I do not know where this bridge will join the streets of Kilkenny. Will it be Vicar Street, Dean Street, near the car park at Dunnes Stores or will it just stop dead on the side of the river? Will it encourage extra traffic onto the city centre streets or will it sit quietly empty until such time as the Diagio site is developed?

Anger gave way to hope when I realised just how many people of all ages and backgrounds felt the same way as I did and were prepared to do something about it . In fact when I learned that many people had been working tirelessly for years trying to get their voices heard, to prevent this folly I was ashamed that I hadn’t spoken out sooner and worked with them but now I was determined to get involved and be one more voice calling for a review of the project and increased public consultation.

Going to the protest for the first time was not particularly easy. Would I be welcome? Would I be expected to stand in front of a moving truck? Was I going to be arrested? Would I get a criminal record? What strain would this put on my relationship with my husband who did not understand what I was doing and seemed to be even more anxious than I was?

I decided just to go and see what happened, one step at a time. I arrived, said ‘Hello’ picked up a placard and started to walk. I soon realised that I had not joined an army, this was a protest of individuals. I could come and go as I pleased, I could confront the trucks or police or I could walk away. While everyone welcomed me no one had expectations of me. I felt good , on my own terms I was able to stand up and be counted for something I believed in.

Along with the many people who man the protest points 24/7 I learned that there were many others working in different ways from making posters, contacting the media, checking out legal options etc.. Not forgetting the support of drivers who beep as they pass by. Though on this point we now need to ask drivers to stop beeping because the extra noise is very difficult for local residents to live with and the intention is to run a peaceful and respectful protest.

That was three weeks ago and since then life has been an emotional roller coaster. I have made new friends and got to know old ones better. At times I have been bitterly disappointed When I heard that the pile driver, escorted by police in the middle of the night, had got into the site I wondered if I would have been able to make a difference if I had been there. Would I have had the courage to keep walking? What would I have done? I was angry when I saw the photograph of a council executive who seemed to be sneering at the people who were protesting.

Every time I heard someone say ‘This bridge is going ahead. There is nothing you can do about it’ I became more determined not to give in. I wondered about my courage and commitment until that Thursday morning when I saw the pile driver move towards the river and I knew that the only way to stop it was to get into the water. A strong swimmer I had no fear of the water and I quickly joined the other swimmers.

Thankfully the day was hot so the water was a very pleasant place to be and it seemed to be clean enough to swim in. I wasn’t particularly concerned that I would come to any physical harm but I was quite worried when the guards arrived on the opposite bank and I was very worried that this would be reported in the media and my husband would see a picture of me in the river sitting a few inches from the pile as it was being driven into the river bed.

I was delighted when, for safety reasons after two hours in the water the pile was removed. It felt such an achievement that a few bodies in the water had caused the pile to be removed and the pile driver to be taken back to the yard. It was even better when there was an agreement that work would stop altogether until after the Saturday Council Meeting. Small victories can energise and encourage everyone to keep going.

Along with many others I was, mistakenly, hopeful that the Saturday County Council meeting would call a temporary halt to the work until a review of the project had taken place. When this did not happen I knew that work on the site would begin again on Monday morning it was another very disappointing day.

Then in the early hours of Monday morning The Noreship Enterprise’ arrived on the river. Small and compact but sturdy and safe it was an important addition to the cause. For me it also provided an oasis of calm in the middle of all the activity. Much as I love to work, be active, have a cause and a purpose I also need quiet time alone. I need calm and stillness. I need just to be. On Tuesday I was delighted to have the opportunity to spend the night alone, on the raft. The raft has its own anchor but it was also securely tied with ropes onto each bank. I felt safe.

After all the emotion, excitement, noise, chat , busyness I was alone floating in the middle of the river. All was still and quiet. Mentally blocking out the noise of passing traffic I listened to the fish jump and saw the birds flash by skimming the water as they went. The most noticeable being the bright blue Kingfisher.

As daylight faded the city lights turned on and were reflected in the shimmering river. I couldn’t believe my good fortune, surely this was the most desirable location in the city and it was all mine.

Looking ahead I could see Kilkenny Castle towering above the river and surrounding buildings and to the right I could see the magnificent St Canices Cathedral and Round Tower. Rafting between John’s bridge and Green’s bridge I reflected that if the new bridge had been sensitively designed to fit in with the existing cityscape as part of an overall traffic plan it would have been welcomed and I would not have had my night on the river. Every cloud does have a silver lining!
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As I write this I swell with pride that Kilkenny is my city and I am doing all I can to preserve its beauty for myself and for others. Stopping the bridge is just the beginning, we then have to take, claim, demand, insist on the opportunity for our ideas, vision and wisdom as citizens to be at the heart of the future development of Kilkenny. This is our right and our responsibility.

I am no longer walking on eggshells at home. My picture has been seen, a conversation is taking place. I am on the receiving end of some good natured teasing. Today my husband is making a placard, tomorrow he is going to see what is happening at Greens Bridge. I wonder if I can persuade him to spend a night on ‘The Noreship Enterprise’ with me. Now that would be very nice!

Anne Cody

Previously: Taking It To The River

Piledriver Retreats

Saving Kilkenny

Thanks Padraig O’Ceallaigh

37 thoughts on “The Lady In The Raft

  1. Adrian Shanahan

    I’m sure Anne is a lovely lady and is protesting with the best of intentions but she ( and others like her) do not represent the majority of the people living in Kilkenny City.

  2. Mr. T.

    Eh, they called it the Noreship, not Norsehip.

    And it’s the river Nore.

    FFS. Does anyone in this country know their geography anymore. It’s embarrassing.

        1. WhoAreYa

          People! Just Carrick-On regardless!

          Best to igNore this

          If you are looking to dam this wave of vulgarians though you’ll find a raft of opportunities, though, a real groundswell of effluvium

          Whatever floats your boat.

  3. Aidan Coonan

    My sentiments exactly Adrian, this is a particularly pleasant article & this lady seems genuine BUT her views and that of the Anti CAS movement do not represent the majority of us citizens in Kilkenny City. The media will always find it easier to write about anti views in such situations & I fully support peoples right to protest BUT I would be very appreciate if the media would tell both sides of this story even if the pro CAS story is not as sexy to print. This bridge is a necessity for process in Kilkenny City.

    1. oblongo

      not true. there is huge public support for finishing the ringroad around Kilkenny, and not for this ridiculous discredited 1970s style urban road building project will only serve to funnell traffic into the medieval town centre.

    2. aretheymyfeet

      I have yet to speak to a single person who supports the bridge. Everyone I know who grew up in kk is completely against it. How exactly is the bridge necessary for progress in Kilkenny do you mind me asking Aidan? The only people who actually believe that are the economically and culturally illiterate. A city whose economy is built on tourism, tourism which centres around the medieval history of the city and this bridge is going to completely undermine this. This is one of those progress arguments that sees shopping centres and motorways as ‘progress’ in themselves. Complete ignorance to be honest.

  4. Ferret McGruber

    Some people wouldn’t recognise their heritage if it rose up and bit them in the a**e, You go Anne!

  5. Bacchus

    Via in-laws in Kilkenny I get the distinct impression that it’s just a handful of vocal protesters and nobody else gives a damn.
    When almost every “press release” has lines like “… many people of all ages and backgrounds felt the same way as I did and were prepared to do something about it ” I suspect very few actually do care.

    1. aretheymyfeet

      Apathy is a problem with all issues. People piss and moan when directly affected but fail to foresee events which will lead to them being affected. Besides X-factor is much more interesting….

    2. Hosanna in the Hiace

      None of the Anti-CAS people have outlined why the council would see it as the best option, just personalised abuse.

      As usual none of the Anti-brigade have much in the way of technical competence – let alone Civil Engineering qualifications

      1. aretheymyfeet

        This is nonsense. It is actually the Council who have completely failed to to outline why the bridge is the ‘best option’. In fact, the Council have completely failed to explain what the bridge is for at all! The plan is one first developed over 30 years ago I believe for greater access for trucks from the brewery (which is closing soon as it happens) and no-one seems to be able to explain what purpose the new bridge will perform. What exactly have civil engineering qualifications got to do with understanding whether the bridge is right for the town? and how do you know that they have none?

      2. Owen Browne

        The problem is that the Central Access Scheme is an engineering-led ‘solution’ to a poercieved transport need, and, as such, it betrays its 1970s origins. Spending €10.7 million on this road and bridge scheme will bring more traffic through the town centre and encourage the use of the private car over other forms of transport. This is exactly the opposite of government policies on sustainable transport and best practice established over the last few decades. Kilkenny deserves 21st century solutions not this discredited, outdated plan

      3. Columbo's Missus

        I’m Anti CAS and have a degree in planning. Those of us involved are from all walks of life, students, teachers, retired folk, housewives, musicians, business owners etc.

  6. Spaghetti Hoop

    Was there a need for an entire diary entry with such emotion in order to register opposition to the development? Best practice is to emulate an EIS in terms of ecological, archaeological, social impacts etc. and present it in a format that Councillors are familiar with.

  7. Dave

    The only reason for the CAS is to improve access to the brewery site so developers can have a field day. The council have not shown how the CAS is supposed to benefit anyone but they have published plans for the brewery site…

    No planner in their right mind would want MORE traffic in a city center! Time to finish the ring road.

  8. Paddy

    Fair dues Broadsheet for that piece. Think it incapsulates for many involved in the anti- CAS side the early, strange, jittery feelings about suddenly finding oneself on a picket in your own city for the first time.

    I feel like apologising to the early protesters as the first couple of days I passed them and thought ‘ah, usual suspects’ even though I had always believed the inner relief road/ Central access scheme was a horrible idea from the past with no vision.
    So like Anne, I felt obliged to DO something- not moan about it. I turned up and started walking, and talking with a great bunch of random residents of the city and beyond.
    I remain hopeful this CAS project will be stopped: I hope this can be done without huge financial headache for our local governing system- but I fear that is now not possible- but be in no doubt; this councils unelected executive attempt at railroading this through will be their undoing.

  9. Darragh Byrne

    Adrain and Aidan, I have met a only a handful of people over many years campaigning for this that are in agreement with you. Your figures do not add up. 10,000 signatures. A poll in the Kilkenny People where 80 per cent of people were against it. 1000 people marching over two days. That is not a minority. The majority of people I have met protesting and speaking to people socially are against this bridge. You have an outmoded view of business. We need sustainable SME’s nowadays not roads to bring in (or transfer jobs from estates) ‘jobs’ that could leave tomorrow if a tax break happens in India or China. Carlow was the blueprint by Joe Crockett for this kind of old fashioned development. That has been a disaster for that town. We need to look to the future and away from these backward dinosaur economic models. David McWillaims and Olivia O’Leary- two greater minds than either yourselves or I have both said that this plan will rupture the fabric of the city economically and culturally forever ever more for the worse. All protestors are asking for is some breathing room to think about this and GET IT RIGHT. Let us not rush into something we can never change and will regret forever.

  10. WhoAreYa

    Totally agree.

    This is idiotic and braindead

    There is as I understand it in parallel to this a multi million euro project to develop heritage tourism in the time. How dragging a lot of unwanted traffic into the centre of town in fact is faciliating this is not obvious

  11. Bacchus

    “10,000 signatures. …..
    1000 people marching over two days…..
    That is not a minority…. ”

    Ah… yes it is.

    and here’s the obligatory and tell-tale sentence I mentioned earlie ….
    “The majority of people I have met protesting and speaking to people socially are against this bridge.”

    1. Darragh Byrne

      Bacchus , I would actually agree with you- people in Kilkenny don’t care. That is because of three factors- 1. Its the hurling season. Very hard to change the topic away from this at the best of times but especially this time of year. 2. Arts Week- the biggest money spinner in Kilkenny every year. Brings in more money than any other week in the year 3. Its boring – talking about bridges, town planning and public consultation process. Jesus! pass me pint of Smithwicks quick. Of course most people , or at least 60 per cent will never ever give a damn. Only when it is built and then they will tell the 30 per cent of people who protested “Jaysus that’s a shocking looking yolk!! What do you mean I can’t drive on it for 5-10 years while Council buys land and looks at bones n the brewery? Why didn’t they finish the Ring Road? When is Tesco opening?” Absolultely you are correct poeple don’t care but only 10 per cent at a very generous estimation and my word for that is an elite. An elite of vested interests wan this thing built. My question is – why should 10 per cent rule over 60 per cent those who couldn’t give a shoight about anything except hurling and art and scoops and the 30 per cent who passionately to the point of risking their lives don’t want it?I thought this was a democracy.

    2. ross stewart

      actually out of a total population of 27000 in the city, when adjusted to those who can actually vote (minus children, disabled, incapacitated, etc) and when the figure of those who actually want to vote (minus the don’t know/don’t care) is subtracted, a figure of 10000 would most definitely be considered a majority.

  12. Darragh Byrne

    Same place as where council keep the contract nobody has seen signatures of, where they keep physical scale model of the bridge they don’t want to show us and the magical land where a government with huge financial problems is going to find money to finish Phase 2 of this scheme- i.e. the roads to and from the bridge that link them up to rest of city. My figures might not be 100 per cent accurate but don’t think they are as fictional and made up as some of the things that the council is telling their voters and tax payers. Local election figures in the city are also worth a look at. Especially in next by-election for Phil Hogan’s seat. Can we reconvene for this conversation then and I will hold up my hands if CAS does decide that election either especially when there is half built dirty mess rotting away through the winter? Be some interesting numbers to crunch then I reckon.

  13. Aine M

    Excellent article and excellent arguments by both sides (tic) :-) I can’t understand how any govt or population would give serious consideration to bringing traffic into the city! Finish the ringroad, keep traffic out of the city, happy days :-) and as for fighting apathy? Constant battle, remember this is Ireland we’re talking about… :-)

  14. Katrina

    Thanks to Anne for beautifully articulating how so many of us feel at Green’s bridge in kilkenny. We are just “ordinary” people trying to stand up for what is right. public consultation in relation to the CAS failed if thousands of people signed a petition against it. public consultation was completely inadequate if people living in Wolfe tone street were not even aware of the CAS until work had already begun on the bridge! public consultation did not work if hundreds of people took to the streets to march against the CAS because their voice was not being listened to. public consultation was blatantly not fit for purpose if so many people feel they are left with no other choice than to stand together in solidarity at greens bridge to protect the city they love. All we want is for works to cease so that we can come together as a community to try and end this stalemate. All we want is a proper opportunity to engage in full and meaningful consultation to decide the fate of our beautiful city.

  15. Procaskk

    I don’t agree with the use of the 10k signatures who are AGAINST the CAS – Those signatures were collected in good faith, and the tag line, complete the ring road, I signed it… but i am ProCas – It was never stated that this was the use… I would like the ring road complete but can’t see it happening for a long long time… I think the Freshford Road to the Castlecomer road extension will be done within the next few years, but cant see that been linked to the Kilmanagh or Tullaran roads any time soon… and there isnt a need really… there is nothing on those roads!!! The CAS wont ruin any historic views, features etc that people are saying it will… I also think the people in the water protesting are only doing more damage than good… and ps… where was the protesters yesterday when it was lashing rain… only 2 lonely figures!!!!

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