The new €1.65 million footbridge in Ballina which was officially opened last October has finally been given a name. Ballina Town Council adopted The Salmon Weir bridge as the name for the bridge by a vote of five to two, which was against the will of the majority of the people who made submissions on the naming. Cllr Michelle Mulherin along with her party colleague Cllr Mark Winters to name the bridge after Mary Robinson, with Fianna Fáil councillors Willie Nolan and Frances McAndrew, and Independent councillors Mary Kelly, Peter Clarke, and Gerry Ginty voting against it. Both Cllr Johnny O’Malley and Cllr Barry McLoughlin were not present at the vote as they had to leave the meeting early to be part of a guard of honour for the late John Forde, whose funeral was taking place that evening.
“I proposed naming it the Mary Robinson bridge,” Cllr Mulherin told the Mayo Advertiser. “But that wasn’t just my proposal, it was the proposal of the majority of the people who made submissions to the council on the naming of it.” Cllr Mulherin also hit out at the Fianna Fáil members of the council for dragging out the process of naming the bridge. “They wanted the consultation process to be entered into, and when they didn’t like the result they just threw it out,” she said. “It’s that kind of behaviour that has this country the way it is.”
Ballina Town Council Mayor Mary Kelly said that she for one was glad that the issue had finally been put to bed. “I’m personally glad that this has finally been dealt with, it has dragged on far too long,” she said. Mayor Kelly acknowledged that the majority of the submissions had been in favour of naming it after Mary Robinson, but she explained there were a number of considerations to be looked at when making the decision. “The majority were in favour of naming it after Mary Robinson, but when you looked at it there were a number of husbands and wives and families who all made individual submissions in favour of that name.”
Cllr Mulherin acknowledged that part of her proposal was to write to Mrs Robinson to see if she minded the bridge being named after her, but Cllr Mulherin hit back at what she described as the “small mindedness” of the decision. “There is a real big fish in a small pond syndrome about this decision,” she said. “Some of the councillors would have you think that everybody knows where Ballina is. But all you have to do is drive from Dublin to here to see how badly it is signposted. We have a wonderful tourist product to market in this town and if we named the bridge after Mary Robinson it would have been a great addition. She is one of the most famous women not only in the country, but the world, and her standing on the international stage would have given us an additional boost.”
Cllr Mulherin also said that people in Ballina are frustrated when they see how long decisions like this take to make when there are more serious issues to be dealt with. “We have a great town, but we have a number of serious issues that we should be dealing with like job creation and the N26, and people do get frustrated when they see things like this being drawn out for so long. This bridge should have been named before it was ever opened and it shouldn’t have taken so long.”