An impressive seventeen bridges span the River Liffey in Dublin city, and in many cases their names honour dead nationalists of Ireland’s past. Sean Heuston, the 25-year-old rebel executed in 1916 for his role in the Easter rebellion, gives his name to the bridge next to the train station also named in his honour. Today, the LUAS passes over Heuston Bridge. It’s ironic that the bridge was first opened with the name Kings Bridge to commemorate a visit by King George IV in 1821.
Further up the river, one finds Liam Mellows Bridge, named in honour of the progressive republican Liam Mellows, who was executed by the Free State during the civil war. As hxci has noted in an early post on this site, “at 248 years of age, Mellows Bridge is the oldest existing bridge across the Liffey.”
Yet in recent times there has been real shift away from naming bridges in honour of political figures. James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Sean O’Casey have seen bridges named in their honour in recent years. While of course O’Casey was a member of the Irish Citizen Army at one point and a socialist himself, the recent shift has been away from political figures and towards figures who are first and foremost cultural.
The new bridge currently under construction, spanning the River Liffey from Marlborough Street to Hawkins Street, is being built with the purpose of connecting the LUAS on both sides of the Liffey. The image below gives a good artists impression of the planned completed work:
Various names have been proposed for the new bridge. In the pages of The Irish Times Frank McNally proposed a hero of Come Here To Me, Flann O’Brien (that is Myles na gCopaleen) as being the perfect candidate. Others have proposed Bram Stoker, while others have proposed to name the bridge in honour of the Abbey Theatre next to it. The fact that not a single Dublin bridge has been named in honour of a female figure from our past has been commented on in many quarters too, and the debate continues to rage.
Now, the union movement have entered the debate and proposed to name the bridge in honour of the Edinburgh born trade unionist James Connolly. Connolly’s beloved Irish Citizen Army had its headquarters at Liberty Hall next to the bridge it should be remembered. What I like most about this idea however is something which many commentators may miss or even choose to ignore. Connolly played a central role in the Lockout of 1913, when Dublin tram workers were entangled in the greatest labour dispute in the history of the capital. To see the trams of Dublin today pass over Connolly Bridge would be some sight!
The committee is being led by Brendan Carr of SIPTU, who was stated that the campaign already seems to be enjoying broad political backing, an article on build.ie quotes Carr as stating:
Connolly played a crucial role in the events of 1913, when the working people of Dublin took a stand for better living and working conditions. He also personifies the link between this struggle and the later events of Easter 1916, during which he led the rebel forces.
However Connolly must also be remembered for his importance as a thinker and a writer of seminal works on Irish history and society. He would not be out of place in the modern, cosmopolitan Dublin. Connolly was himself an immigrant. Born into grinding poverty in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh to Irish parents his legacy reaches beyond Ireland to Britain and the United States, where he also worked as a union organiser.
It’s certainly a fine idea to name the bridge in honour of Connolly. I’ve heard one barstool genius already propose the Brian Lenihan Bridge, and no doubt we’ll hear all sorts of other proposals between now and the time Dublin City Council reach their decision in the Autumn, but will Connolly win the day?