#1916bridge - President Michael D Higgins unveiled a plaque to ‘Tom Clarke Bridge’ officially now the name to Dublin’s East-Link toll-lift bridge which is the last road crossing over the Liffey before meeting the sea, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The bridge name honours the memory of Tom Clarke, one of the chief organisers of the 1916 Rising and the first signatory of the Proclamation. The unveiling ceremony by the President accompanied by his wife Sabrina, took place on the Ringsend side of the bridge and coincided with the centenary this day 100 years ago of his execution along with Patrick Pearce and Thomas MacDonagh at Kilmainham Jail (Gaol). The State will commemorate all the other executions of the Leaders of the 1916 Rising up to 12 May.
According to Dublin City Council which took control of the bridge last year, there say there are no records of the bridge having been previously named. So for more than 30 years the bridge has been simply known as the ‘East-Link’ or ‘Toll-bridge’ taking traffic, mostly commuting motorists and port-related freight vehicles.
Completed in 1984, the bascule bridge forms a critical part of the capitals road infrastructure and a lifting span (45 metres wide) to permit vessels to pass to and fro between the main port and upriver to the city-centre. The process of raising and closing the span takes 3 minutes.
The last large vessels to transit through the bridge before today’s naming ceremony were a trio of Belgian Navy vessels that departed the capital following a visit over the May bank holiday weekend.
For today's proceedings to take place involving relatives of the 1916 leader, city officials and dignitaries, the bridge was ironically closed to both road and shipping traffic. This caused the most frequent boat user of the bridge, St.Bridget of Dublin Bay Cruises not able to carry out morning cruises. This would of seen the former Aran Islands and Inishbofin ferry berth upriver at Sir John Rogersons Quay.
In terms of the last most frequent Irish flagged commercial shipping to sail past the raised bridge span, that fell to the ‘Guinness’ ships, The Lady Patricia and Miranda Guinness. These purpose-built stout tankers plied the Irish Sea between Dublin and the Mersey and from there onto the Manchester Ship Canal.