Friday 18 July 2014

Cutting Through Kilkenny's Heart

Pile driver at the CAS construction site in Kilkenny City

There is something rotten in a country that pours concrete over its heritage. That is what we do in Ireland though. We did it to Wood Quay in the early 1980s and to the Tara Valley in 2007-10. Now Kilkenny City is the crosshairs of the concrete fusiliers. Instead of completing the construction of the existing ring road around the city, Kilkenny County Council wants to build a heavy-duty central access road with a large garish bridge right through the city's beautiful medieval heart. It's just another cynical, short-sighted, back-of-the-envelope half-measure that typifies infrastructure planning in Ireland.

CAS plan
Local people who oppose the Central Access Scheme (CAS) have been protesting day and night for the past two weeks in an effort to stop the construction of the bridge and to preserve the historical section of the city. The protesters had expected their standoff with the county council to reach its climax yesterday with the planned arrival of a heavy-duty pile driver at the construction site. Around fifty of them blocked the entrance to the site in order to keep this huge machine out. 

Anti-CAS protest
However, at four o'clock this morning, when only two protesters were keeping watch due to the heavy rain overnight, dozens of Gardaí – including a few officers in riot gear – cleared the entrance and escorted the pile driver and several truckloads of heavy machinery onto the site. Though news quickly spread of the surprise Gardaí operation, people trying to return to the protest were prevented from doing so by the Gardaí, who took the extraordinary step of blocking the access roads to the site. According to the Kilkenny People, even residents of the area around the site said that the Gardaí prevented them from passing through until the operation had been completed. If only our police force were as enthusiastic about rooting out the endemic corruption in its own ranks as it is about destroying Kilkenny's unique cityscape.

Gardaí clear the site entrance at 4 a.m.

Despite this setback, the anti-CAS activists are continuing their protest. They held a demonstration at the site again this afternoon and a delegation from the various anti-CAS groups will meet with Kilkenny County Council on Monday. Given the track record of our elected representatives for both ignorance and idiocy, I expect nothing from the councillors but bland platitudes and buzzwords like "progress" and "growth".

Some things are worth fighting for regardless of the final outcome. The anti-CAS campaign is one of them. If Ireland's county councillors had their way, they would probably cover the entire island with motorways, shopping centres, offices, apartment blocks and car parks. It is time we started to preserve what is beautiful about our country instead of destroying and "developing" it. Stopping the central access schemers from cutting through Kilkenny's heart would be the perfect first step.

To help stop the CAS, sign this online petition. For information and updates about the protest, visit the anti-CAS campaign page on Facebook.


  1. An absolute disgrace. The arrogance of Kilkenny County Council on this matter, has been astounding.

  2. Good piece Alfie. You argue so clearly

  3. Corrupt county councillors. I said it from the beginning- brown envelopes.