Save Kilkenny protestors during the Summer (top) and Margaret O’Brien (above)
Your town next.
Margaret O’Brien writes:
I have a very good friend …..let’s call her P. I love her. She is one of those rare people that you meet…….a person without a personal agenda. Her worldview is rooted in a deep sense of family, friends and place. She understands people by their actions, and only by their actions; she reserves judgement because circumstances alter cases.
She understands people… never by who or what they are; never by what they have; never by what they can do for her. She measures things not by how much they cost or are worth in euro signs but in the differences they make and the effects that they have on the people she loves. As I said, she is a rare individual.
I write this today because she is heartbroken, and if she is heartbroken, something is wrong, because she is the rare one among us who sees the good in everyone and everything.
It may seem trite and unimportant to some, but she is heartbroken because of a bridge….a piece of engineering…a structure of concrete and steel, like countless others throughout the world. Her heart breaks because of where it is…..because of what it means………because of how it has come to this point….because of the how it will shape the place that she loves…because of how it will effect the future of the people and place that she loves.
She is quintessentially a kind and generous person; the gentlest of creatures, confrontation and protest are alien to her nature. Yet during this last summer, she walked at Green’s bridge in Kilkenny. In her quiet way she strolled, and stood, and cried as numerous Gardai approached….as some of them whom she knew, in a previous life, as friends kneed her into her back and corralled her, tried to make her feel powerless……..to make her and others feel as if she were wrong to be there…..wrong to care about the future of those and the place that she loves.
At that time of standing up, the council maintained that this bridge, this feat of engineering, was necessary to address traffic congestion in the city. But P saw this structure not as the relief of congestion but instead as a nightmare of thousands of HGV’s rocking the foundations of all she loves and holds dear.
Later the council maintained that the bridge was necessary for pedestrians and cyclists….but this fundamentally honest woman was never convinced……to her these arguments didn’t hold up. Why build a bridge this size for cyclists and pedestrians she asked…it didn’t make sense?
Last week-end in Kilkenny a group of internationally renowned, professionally respected economists and expert commentators on development, could not between them, find even one argument in favour of this bridge.
Today I hear a council representative on the radio maintain that this bridge is necessary to ‘open up’ both the Mart and Brewery sites for development. Today’s radio revelation has not been what has been said up until now…..until now CAS, as its name suggests, has been about traffic, a narrow Greensbridge and lately cyclists…..but perhaps today, it was deemed safe to finally admit what the project has been about from the outset….. now that the ownership of the Mart site has been decided.
The Mart site is now privately owned….the proposal for the Brewery site is to lease it to private companies…..so finally it is clear. Kilkenny County Council are building a bridge, and the people of Kilkenny will pay for it… and as a result privately owned companies, and perhaps individuals, will grow their property balance sheet overnight…..and shape this city according to their profit and loss accounts…..and throw a few jobs in, if necessary for as long as agreed in the terms of the lease or planning permission, or at least for as long as it suits.
But at what price to us…..the people of Kilkenny…the businesses of Kilkenny….the unique character and soul of Kilkenny…past , present and future? Well we will have a concrete structure to look at, for as long as it lasts……but is this enough….is it all……have we even agreed to it?
My honest, unassuming and gentle friend P says that she has never has. I believe her. And yet today the street is closed and work ploughs on…..and she is heartbroken……and so I write this, because somebody ought to.
Previously: Saving Kilkenny
Thanks Padraig O’Ceallaigh