Hope For A Resolution to the Barrack Street Bridge Danger in 2024

The narrow bridge over the River Maine at Barrack Street and the still proposed site for the foot-bridge to the left of the parapet with the children’s playground in the distance. Cllr. Charlie Farrelly (inset) has been campaigning since his election for safer access to the playground to include a foot-bridge. ©Photographs: John Reidy
Church Street Bridge and its pedestrian option which Garvey’s SuperValu put in place in 2005 for the safety of its customers and students from the local schools. ©Photograph: John Reidy
Cllr. Charlie Farrelly testing out the ‘Killarney Bridge’ which he maintains is ideally suited in all aspects as a safety structure at Barrack Street Bridge for pedestrian traffic to and from the Castleisland playground. This is disputed by Kerry County Council officials including CEO Moira Murrell.

There may well be an element of the ancient Irish proverb: dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi to this.

But there’s wicked rumour circulating in the Castleisland area that Kerry County Council’s most senior officials including its CEO are forming the last line of opposition to the reallocation of an idle, temporary bridge in Killarney for use over the River Maine at Barrack Street, Castleisland.

The old bridge has come under an increasing focus of attention in recent years and more than ever since the local Mná Spraoí Oileán Chiarraí achieved its objectives of creating and opening a children’s playground for the town at Tonbwee in March 2010.

No Great Urgency Here

From that alone you’ll see that things don’t move with any great urgency around here.

The ancient and narrow bridge in question is the main artery from Lower Main Street to the playground. Those who built the bridge could never have imagined that it would be subjected to the levels of traffic as it is today.

The little bridge holds a unique position in local history as it was the only such fording over the River Maine in the immediate town area until the early 1830s when engineer Richard Griffith and his team built the up-river bridge and the ‘New Line’ now known as Church Street.

Building Boom of 1226

The location and origins of Barrack Street / Barrack Lane Bridge, probably because of its close proximity to the remains of the Norman castle, are most likely linked to the local building boom of 1226 and it was the old road to Cork.

It was just about coping up to the opening of the nearby playground which added another element of the unimaginable to the intentions of the original builders and planners.

From then on it posed and still poses a risk to the ever increasing pedestrian traffic from the town through Barrack Street. And that’s only getting busier now that the little street is coming in for increasing use as a kind of unofficial one way system with Church Street and on to the Back-of-the Forge.

Banish the ‘Dúirt Bean Liom’ Element

I had hoped to banish the dúirt bean liom … element to this serious matter recently so I rang Kerry County Council and hoped to speak to the CEO Ms. Moira Murrell one day before Christmas. She was too busy to take my call and the secretary Olive asked for the purpose of the call. I told her of the rumours concerning the top brass in the offices around her and about the idle bridge in Killarney and all.

I got an emailed reply from council spokesman, Owen O’Shea as follows:

Hi John, I understand you were in touch with the Chief Executive’s office regarding the footbridge in Killarney.

By way of response:

The temporary bridge in Killarney is required as part of the Council’s Emergency Response. This structure is not suitable for use as a permanent structure as the provision of any permanent structure must satisfy the relevant design standards and comply with all other statutory provisions. If you have any queries, give me a shout.

All the best, Owen.

On-Going Saga

At a recent meeting of Kerry County Council the on-going saga of the bridge over the River Maine and the spare footbridge which is apparently languishing in Killarney got another airing.

The Killarney footbridge has been in storage there for most of a decade when a safety structure of its kind is so badly needed in Castleisland. The situation was raised by Cllr. Charlie Farrelly at that meeting and he asked officials to take action on the matter.

He spoke about the bridge in Castleisland with the nearby playground and how the Killarney footbridge, valued at €80,000, could be put to great use here.

“There will be a serious accident on this bridge in Castleisland as it stands now,” Cllr Farrelly warned.

Highlighted in Tidy Towns Report

He said the adjudicators in this year’s Tidy Towns report had also highlighted the situation and there needs to be an immediate response.

Kerry County Council Chief Executive Officer, Moira Murrell, said that if intervention is needed in Castleisland, the council will examine the matter.

She reiterated the fact that the temporary bridge in Killarney is required as part of the council’s emergency response plans.

And she asserted the local authority’s position that the footbridge is not suitable for use as a permanent structure as it must satisfy the relevant design standard, and comply with all other statutory provisions.

A Mini Outcry inn 2020

There was a mini outcry in September 2020 when it was announced that a sum of €40,000 was being allocated for a feasibility and design study for a safety structure at the bridge in Castleisland.

In 2023, after highlighting the rash of invasive plants along the banks of the River Maine, the Tidy Towns adjudicator’s attention turned to the bridge as a means of getting to the playground:
“The play area at Barrack Street was visited and was well used on the day although walking to the area was difficult with lots of traffic using the narrow bridge over the Maine River and poor footpath connectivity back to the core of the town,” said the adjudicator.

Cllr. Charlie Farrelly said that the danger of this bridge is, by far, one of the most regular complaints he gets from local constituents.

“Can’t Stand Idly By”

“As a locally elected representative, I can’t stand idly by and wait for a child or an adult to be injured or worse on that bridge and all for want of a footbridge that is standing idly by in Killarney for most of the past decade,” he said.

Locals point up-river to Church Street Bridge – a walk of a couple of minutes away – to a very similar and big sister bridge inside which Garvey’s SuperValu, in 2005, saw the need for and installed a footbridge for the safety of their pedestrian customers and students from nearby secondary schools.

The Heel of the Hunt

In the heel of the hunt, it isn’t that there’s no precedent for such a safety structure in the locality. There’s one on the same short stretch of river in the area and it’s highly unlikely that there was anything like €40,000 spent on feasibility or design studies on that.

The local Kerry County Council workforce has just begun its make-over on the Killarney Road to Barrack Street stretch of the river-walk as part of its overall upgrade of the greatly valued amenity.

Spring-Time Reopening

I bet you it will be a splendid and welcome spring-time reopening in mid February when the work there is due to be completed.

Barrack Street to Church bridges will then be in focus as the next stretch of the walk whenever that phase of the work will be undertaken.

You’d wonder if it’s too much to hope for that a resolution will be found to the obvious Barrack Street dangers in the course of this brave new year of 2024.

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