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Construction for the park on Bridgefoot Street in Dublin 8 has finally begun, after a years-long wait.
On a dull Monday afternoon, two builders walk across the site. Their heads are dipped down to avoid the rain that has been drizzling all day.
This bit of land sits between the council’s Oliver Bond flats to the east, and Aparto’s Binary Hub student housing block to the west. It’s in one of the least green bits of the city.
The site looks far from ready to be a park. But there are certainly signs of progress. The ground is being leveled and shaped into what the park will look like.
Diggers sit beside mounds of dirt, and a builder is taking shelter in one as the rain starts to come down harder.
So now that building has begun, the next question is:what should the park be called?
Locals have several ideas for people it could be named after – but none of them might be allowed under council rules.
Dave Galloway steps out from the cold room in Courtney butchers.
Two other butchers are hard at work at the back of the room, hacking away.
“What about Oliver Bond Park, maybe?” Galloway says, as he steps onto the street and looks at the site from across the road.
“There’s an Oliver Bond Street so maybe that could work?” he says before he recommends asking Tony O’Rourke from Oh’Rourke’s Cafe next door.
“I don’t mind what it’s called as long as it’s built,” says O’Rourke, who was part of the team that campaigned for the park.
The cafe is quiet at the moment, but in 10 minutes’ time, O’Rourke will be getting a rush from the builders on the park site, in for their lunch.
“The thing is that the kids will have their own name for the park once it’s built,” says O’Rourke.
Everybody knows where Bridgefoot Street Bridge is, but nobody knows that it’s actually called Liam Mellows Bridge, says O’Rourke.
People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh says she’d “love to” have the park named after Richie Taplin.
Taplin, who passed away last year, was a member of the committee that pushed for the park to be created, MacVeigh says.
MacVeigh says she is having talks with the Dublin City Council parks department, to see how best to commemorate “the incredible contribution he put in”, she says.
Jimmy Holmes Park could be another possibility, O’Rourke says.
Holmes was born in the Liberties and became Ireland’s youngest international football player at 17 years of age. He played for Coventry City and then moved to Tottenham Hotspur.
“Although I think you have to be dead to get something named after you?” says O’Rourke.
While there might be some ambiguity on Bridgefoot Street about who the park should be named after, there is one name that comes up a few times.
After Anne Devlin
Anne Devlin had an active role with the United Irishmen during her life and was a prominent figure in the Liberties.
Devlin worked as a housekeeper for Robert Emmet and was tortured by British authorities.
“There’s nothing really in the country about her. There’s one statue in Rathfarnham and I think she’s more important than that really,” says Anthony O’Brien Freeman.
O’Brien Freeman is one of the main organisers of the In Our Shoes Walking Tours, which regularly guides curious visitors around The Liberties.
“She passed away in the Liberties and there was a mural of her on a building for a while but it’s gone now,” he says.
The only other commemoration for Devlin that Freeman can think of is a mural on the shutters of a butchers on Meath Street, he says.
“But it’s only there when the shutters are down so no one really sees it,” he says.
O’Brien Freeman isn’t the only person that would like to see the park named after Anne Devlin.
“I would like it to be called after her, Anne Devlin,” says Josie Sheehan, who organises a history group in the Robert Emmet Community Development Project, which is based just off Bridgefoot Street.
“She was never forgotten [in the area]. I grew up knowing about her, not from school but from my mother,” she says.
“We all know her for being a strong woman,” Sheehan says. “Something around here should be called after her because she was such a strong character.”
Meeting the Criteria
Consideration will be given to gender balance when Dublin City Council is deciding what to name the park, according to the council’s policy for commemorative naming of city infrastructure.
The person must have been born in Dublin, have lived here, or had “strong and/or enduring connections with the city”. They must also have “made a unique or outstanding contribution to the life or history of the city”.
O’Rourke was right: the council won’t name infrastructure or statues after people who are still alive. Although there’s some wiggle room on exactly how long they have to have been dead.
But here’s the kicker: the policy says parks “will not be named after individuals”. Instead, names of parks “will reflect the locality or townland”.
Dublin City Council has a commemorative naming committee, which makes recommendations on the naming of the public places by the council.
The committee is made up of eight city councillors “assisted by” the council’s executive manager for culture, recreation and economic services, the Dublin City Librarian, the Dublin City Arts Officer, and the Dublin City Heritage Officer, says the council’s policy.
The committee can take suggestions from the public into consideration. To submit a name for the park, there’s an application form to fill out and submit to the council.
The committee’s recommendations are brought to the full, 63-member city council for final decisions on names for “major infrastructure, and monuments/statues”, according to the council policy.