The mother of a missing Offaly woman has described the level of support for a proposal to name a bridge after her daughter as “very heartening”.
Josephine Pender delivered a petition containing almost 13,000 signatures to town clerk Martin Daly of Tullamore Town Council yesterday.
Campaigners want a replacement footbridge named “Fiona’s Way” in memory of the 25-year-old hairdresser and part-time model. Fiona was seven months’ pregnant when she vanished in Aug 1996.
However, the council effectively blocked the proposal when it adopted policy preventing infrastructure from being named after individuals last month.
Speaking outside the town hall, Mrs Pender said “we are hopeful that it will happen, even at this stage we are still hopeful that it will happen”.
“We have handed over 12,934 signatures on the petition from the public, the people of Tullamore, who would like the footbridge named after Fiona.”
Given that Tullamore has a population of around 15,000, Mrs Pender said: “We have had a lot of support from the town and it’s great that so many people signed the petition. There is almost 13,000 signatures there now today so it is amazing, it’s very heartening to know that we have that level of support.”
Chairman of the Fiona Pender Bridge Campaign, Mark Quinlan, is not convinced the council are heeding the petition. “We are not hopeful that the outcome of this meeting will be any different then previously but we are not going away.”
Only two of the nine town councillors have backed the proposal and Mr Quinlan said some councillors privately told him their positions remain unchanged. “I think at this stage they should put it out for public consultation,” he said.
Cllr Brendan Killeavy (SF) believes the petition is unprecedented for Tullamore. “From speaking to people in the town and the council they certainly can’t recall a petition of that size being handed in,” he said.
The signatures were gathered in the past six weeks. Campaigners are due to hold a silent vigil outside the town hall tomorrow to coincide with this month’s council meeting.
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