Plans to boost tourism by rebuilding Drogheda’s medieval town walls face fierce opposition from residents groups, the retail sector and the National Roads Authority. A publicity of local councillors has applied for planning permission with the backing of the Office of Public Works (OPW), The Heritage Council and the Old Drogheda Society of History. It is hoped that the town will be physically transformed from its current architectural eyesore status to something more aesthetically pleasing. Organisers say that the wall building initiative will have numerous positive effects on the community.
“The most obvious benefit will be aesthetic. If you look at the Dutch master Van der Hagen’s 1718 View of Drogheda, you’d think it was somewhere enchanting, like Prague. Recently, the executor of the Van der Hagen estate visited the spot where his forefather had captured Drogheda. Looking at the vision his ancestor captured, he turned to me and asked whether Drogheda had been bombed in the second war and rebuilt by unqualified architects,” explained Councillor Shanks, spokesman for the proposal.
“Then sure you have the obvious benefit of mass employment in the town. In terms of ripping the fabric of society to shreds and sending our children away, the economic crash has many similarities to the Great Famine. Back then, great public works were initiated to provide for the populace. Big walls were built. We connect with the past to provide hope for the future.”
The walls, which could be up to 8m high and 2m thick in places, also consisted of numerous gates and watchtowers. The mayor has chipped in and suggested that the towers be used as cultural/community hubs. There has been significant interest in the old Pigeon Tower from Yellowbatter Pigeon Racers Club while Bettystown Amusement Park have teamed up with Aware to initiate preliminary talks on converting one of the towers into a helter skelter for depressed deaf children. He also added that the rebuilt defensive system would make it easier to control the access of Meath people to the town, especially around the championship.
However, there has been widespread opposition over the proposal. Odemwingbwe Cholowangbe, chairman of the Kermon House residents association was unequivocal in his opposition. Under the proposal, buildings constructed with original material from the town walls would be demolished in a move heralded by heritage groups as ‘a correction of cultural violence’. Kermon residents were joined by Scotch Hall and the d Hotel in opposing the move. The original town walls slice through what is now the Scotch Hall complex. Demolition of the shopping centre would be costly, but hopes are high that this would be quickly offset by a boost in tourism. Interestingly, local councillors had insisted that the outlay of a where a tower once stood be included in planning permission for the Scotch Hall development.
Also opposed to the proposal is the National Roads Authority which says that the Dublin Road will ‘end up as two cul de sacs’ as the wall climbs up from the river. Councillors have moved to alleviate fears by exploring the possibility of a tunnel or a rerouting the road over the Boyne River where there is a gap in the wall.
Senator Thomas Bryn welcomed the idea and noted that it would be good for house prices in the region.