Make new bridge a symbol of hope and remembrance

I have always had an obsession with bridges. More from an architectural point of view than from the metaphorical images they represent, although as you get on in life, you tend to juxtapose the two wherever you can. The world over, I have stood on and beneath bridges, staring at their girth and wondering how the hell they stay up and what a leap of faith is was for the engineers to venture forth on their construction.

From Golden Gate to the Brooklyn Bridge to Tower Bridge to the Peace Bridge in Derry to the Clifton Bridge in Bristol, I have marvelled at their ability to dominate a place and to bear the weight of all who use them to cross those places.

I write about this on this occasion, because next Friday, Galway will officially open its first new crossing of the river Corrib for almost forty years. Bridges perform an unusual role in life in that they are constructed solely where mankind has been challenged by nature, by gravity, by the presence of a body of water. Here in Galway, we have a city named after a princess of the water, we are surrounded by it, so you would think that we would have least built as many bridges as roundabouts, but that’s an argument for another day.

This new bridge spanning the river from Newtownsmyth to Galway Cathedral will offer a new vista of this town, but will also offer a new structure that in time will come to define it, in the way that Padraic O Conaire and the Wilde/Vilde statues have done for their eras. From next week, this bridge will represent a new Galway; hopefully, it will be the first of many. Plans to construct another along the old river parapets 300 metres upstream have been mooted and hopefully will be advanced in time.

The new bridge will also offer us an opportunity to have a new relationship with the river, may it represent hope and opportunity and possibility.

Let us never forget that the location of this bridge is a place where many many people over the years have come without hope, filled with despair, and saw no way out but the ultimately tragic way.

On many occasions, over the years, our emergency services were deployed at this spot on such sad occasions. From next week, when we start to use this bridge for the wonderful structure that it is, let us each time we cross it, spare a moment for those lost at this spot; and also spare a thought for the bravery and courage of our fire services, gardai, ambulance crews, lifeboat services and members of the boating and rescue community who are always willing to risk their lives so we can live ours.

Enjoy the new bridge, the first structural symbol of a new Galway.


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