Pensioner stages sit-in at Youghal clock tower

John McGrath rejected council’s compromise offer.

A pensioner who was born in an historic clock-gate tower staged a sit-in protest at the landmark Cork visitor attraction yesterday in a row over the display of a family photograph.

John McGrath, 80, from Youghal, said he felt he had no option but to occupy the town’s landmark structure after being refused permission by Cork County Council to display the montage and family crest in the building his family lived in for half a century.

“I gave them so much and now I’m the villain,” he said. 

It has caused me huge upset and it’s become an obsession for me. It would mean so much to me to be allowed to put this over the mantlepiece.

Three generations of the McGrath family lived as tenants in the tower from 1915 until 1955. They had responsibility for winding its clock and announcing a death by ringing its bell.

Owned by the county council, the building was restored in stages from 2008 until it opened as a visitor attraction in March 2017. The McGrath family living room is replicated inside. 

Mr McGrath features in a video screened as part of the visitor tour.

He has been trying for months to get permission to display the 21” by 21” collage of family members linked to the building but officials have refused. 

He has rejected a compromise offer to display a photo without the crest. His frustration boiled over yesterday, when he entered the building at 10am and refused to leave until 4.30pm.

“It’s a collage of my grandparents and their family, my parents and our family,” said Mr McGrath. “It would mean a lot to me to have it displayed in the building.”

Friends of his called for fresh negotiations. Cork County Council did not respond to queries last night.

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