The key to many a heart now lies at the bottom of the River Liffey — where smitten couples have thrown them after securing their locks of love on Dublin’s historic Ha’penny Bridge.
But almost as soon as the lovers have done the deed, an expert lock-picking group arrives to tear the bonds of love asunder — and stop the locks from making the bridge structurally unsafe.
“It’s a fairly constant churn,” said Seán Nicholls, who set up the group when he was on his way to a lock-picking meeting organised by local organisation TOG.
“I was heading to the meeting one day and I walked over the bridge and noticed all the locks. That’s kind of where the idea came from,” he said.
“We tried to get official permission from the council to start removing the locks but they weren’t getting back to us. We tried email and Twitter and going through local councillors but heard nothing. It wasn’t until we started getting positive press that the communication opened up and they eventually gave us permission.”
Dublin City Council made contact with the group in the aftermath of a love-lock situation in Paris — an abundance of the locks caused a section of the Pont des Arts bridge to collapse.
“These locks are damaging a public landmark. If you don’t take them off, they amass a chain which begins with one big lock at the very top. They swing around in the wind and they eat at the paintwork so it’s eventually just down to the metal. Then the bridge begins to rust,” said Seán. “I think it’s kind of offensive actually, that people can put these things on the bridge and act like it doesn’t matter. It’s a very selfish thing to do.”
Seán said the group keeps every lock it removes, so the owners can contact them and get the lock back if they wish. In the meantime, some have been used in Temple Bar art installations.
But the practice isn’t about stomping on the dreams of sweethearts — the group is also trying to come up with a solution to please everybody. “We’re in talks with the council now about maybe having an ornament people can put love locks on,” said Seán. “They have a big one in London which seems to work quite well.”
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