The bridge in Kenmare has long been a landmark in the tourist town. County councillor Patrick Connor Scarteen (FG), who lives locally, wants low-energy lighting installed on it.
“This bridge is the gateway to West Cork and the Beara and Iveragh peninsulas and aesthetic lighting would enhance the location,” he said. “Low-level, recessed, lighting would be cost effective and environmentally-friendly. It would be lovely and would make the bridge stand out at night,” he said.
However, Kerry County Council has given the thumbs-down to the proposal, saying the National Energy Action Plan required all local authorities to reduce energy consumption by 33% by 2020.
“For this reason, the council is not considering any lighting for aesthetic purposes,” a spokesman explained. However, Cllr Connor Scarteen said he was determined to pursue the issue.
“My idea is that there would be lighting from the ground up in different colours. Ducting is already there so there should not be substantial capital costs involved and the kind of lighting proposed would cost far less than conventional lighting,” he said.
“I think the lighting would be very attractive and could be seen from areas surrounding the town.” The bridge over the Kenmare River is generally known as a ‘suspension bridge’ but is not.
The appellation derives from a previous bridge which it replaced more than 80 years ago. The original, claimed to be Ireland’s first suspension bridge, had been completed in 1841, a time when many roads were being built through the country.
The question of erecting a bridge over the Kenmare River, an inlet from the sea, had been discussed as part of the plan to build a road between Kenmare and Bantry.
The local ascendancy was well represented at the laying of the foundation stone by a Lord Lansdowne who also contributed to the cost of the bridge which came to £7,200. In early 1932, the bridge was declared unsafe and closed to traffic.
It was demolished in March of that year, amid reports that it had been “sagging” in an alarming manner and appeared to be in imminent danger of collapse.
A feature of the bridge had been a large stone tower, from which the chains were suspended and which rose to a height of close to 50m above the water.
The old bridge provided a working platform for the construction of its replacement, called Our Lady’s Bridge which was officially opened in March 1933 by local government minister Sean T O’Kelly, later to become president of Ireland.
The new bridge which cost £9,900 has two semi-circular concrete spans, each measuring about 45 metres.