Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The decaying interior of the Moresby Buoy’s substructure. Photo: Waterford City & County Council.

ANY suggestion that the legacy of the MV Moresby would not continue to be honoured on Abbeyside’s Causeway has been strenuously rejected by Waterford City & County Council.

In what was the final matter raised at yesterday’s Dungarvan/Lismore January District meeting, Council officials sought to clarify a matter which, in the view of one Councillor, had descended into “hysteria” over the Christmas period.

Two motions regarding the Moresby Buoy, one dealing with the memorial itself, the other taking both the memorial and its environs into account, were brought before yesterday’s meeting.

Cllr Damien Geoghegan’s (FG) motion called on the Council to “explore all options regarding the reinstatement of the Moresby Buoy and report back to the District Council before any final decision is made regarding its future, including full repair of the original buoy”.

A more expansive motion tabled by Cllr Thomas Phelan (Lab) called on the Council to draft a new integrated plan for the ‘Moresby Park’ area, as the environs around the memorial have come to be known.

Calling for the buoy’s restoration and reinstatement alongside Dungarvan Harbour, along with the preservation of both the ‘Poor Man’s Bench’ and the adjacent tree, Cllr Phelan also proposed an official naming of the park.

“Considerable talk and public comment”

In addition, he suggested that the Council enter into a public consultation process prior to the completion of all on-site works on the Causeway relevant to the Moresby memorial. Cllr Geoghegan said there had been considerable “talk and public comment” about the buoy since it had been removed to accommodate sea walls works in early December.

Acknowledging that such a debate was welcome, such commentary wouldn’t solve the problem. Cllr Geoghegan added: “I do think that if we get the right people sitting around a table to discuss the issue and move it forward, that’s the way to go”.

District Chair Cllr Tom Cronin (FF) said he had received “numerous phone calls since Christmas” about the buoy and what may become of it. “It has been moved and there has been an awful lot of negativity attached to it as well, where it’s gone and how it has been removed but I hope this can be clarified and I do think we need to have a meeting on it and agree a process going forward. We shouldn’t be led by monies or anything to that effect.”

Speaking on his own motion, having commended Cllr Geoghegan’s motion, Cllr Phelan said that “anything we can do in response to the public concern that’s been raised to show that we are listening is only for the (public) good in terms of addressing this issue and resolving it to the satisfaction of people and giving people an opportunity to have their voice heard as well”.

Cllr Conor McGuinness (SF) said the removal of the buoy had generated considerable public comment, much of which struck an annoyed, dismayed and confused note.

“A head’s up would have been helpful”

In terms of the buoy’s removal, Cllr McGuinness said he hadn’t “got a heads up” about that decision both being reached and acted upon. Such a communication “would have been helpful” given how long the buoy had been in place on the Causeway (1988).

This, along with the manner of its removal and how it had been “seemingly discarded” might have been allayed had the Council demonstrated “a little more sensitivity” according to Cllr McGuinness.

Cllr McGuinness also noted that the minutes of the December meeting, which had been passed by members at the start of yesterday, stated that the buoy was “in a very poor condition and beyond repair and ends with ‘and will replace it with something suitable’. We can maybe take a different reading but we were told at the December meeting that it was beyond repair and that something would replace it…it doesn’t take from anything that’s been said but I think it’s just important to clarify that that’s in the minutes that we passed earlier in the meeting”.

Cllr Declan Doocey (FG) said the buoy was of “huge historical significance” to the people of Dungarvan, adding: “We can’t lose this connection…we must hold onto this heritage and remembrance at all costs.”

For his part, Cllr John Pratt (Lab) said: “It’s just a pity that it’s come to this and that discussions weren’t had prior to the removal of (the buoy)…I do believe it needs to be repaired and replaced.”

The removal of the Moresby Buoy from the Causeway in Abbeyside has triggered a significant local debate.
Photo: Cllr Thomas Phelan/Facebook

“A whole lot of hysteria”

Sounding a somewhat different note on the matter while supporting both motions, Cllr James Tobin (FF) stated: “I must have been listening to the wrong meeting in December because I believe it was never the intention of the Council not to replace the Moresby Buoy. It was taken away because it was in poor repair but nobody ever said that it wasn’t going to be replaced unless I was at the wrong meeting. It was always, in my opinion and, I believe, in the opinion of a lot of people, that it was going to be replaced and the hysteria that started, I believe, was misjudged. Because I couldn’t take from the last meeting that anybody ever said that the Moresby (buoy) wasn’t going to be replaced…and we as Councillors, in the next Budget or wherever we’re going to get the money, would support that. I believe we have misread it and caused a whole lot of hysteria which should never have been caused.”

Another shot of the Moresby Buoy’s interior.

Cllr Pat Nugent (FG), who was living in Abbeyside when the Moresby Buoy was put in place, said his take from December’s meeting was that the buoy “had to be looked at by an engineering company to see whether it would be either replaced or repaired”.

Council’s “extreme difficulties in removing the buoy”.  

Noting the comments of all members, but the remarks of Cllrs Tobin and Nugent in particular, Raymond Moloney, the Council’s Environment Senior Executive Officer (SEO) said the December meeting’s Environment Report detailed the works at Moresby Park. “To facilitate the works, the buoy would have to be temporarily removed off site to facilitate the work and that while off-site, the buoy would be examined to establish the viability of carrying out work repairs and that was reported seven to 10 days prior to the (December) Council meeting. In the intervening period – possibly the Wednesday prior the meeting  – works proceeded to make arrangements to remove the buoy and we had extreme difficulties in removing the buoy.”

Mr Moloney continued: “I received a phone call from my technical staff advising me of such and I visited the site to see the condition of the buoy and I have to say (that) the buoy was in – I’m not an engineer and have no knowledge of metalwork – but just as a casual, visual observation, the buoy did appear to be in poor condition and we were unable to attach fixing eyes to it to enable it to be removed safely from the site. The top half of the buoy had already been removed at that stage and the substructure was then removed to the Civic Amenity site. Now, some people have said that because it was at the civic amenity site that it had been discarded: nothing could be further from the truth. We often use that area, where we have space, to store large objects so that they don’t take up room in the depot. And from the report, from the minutes of the last meeting, it was always our intention to replace the Moresby Buoy, whether that would be the actual Moresby Buoy, a replica Moresby Buoy – I went through this at last month’s meeting – I mentioned a full-scale model, a smaller scale model or even a sculptural piece. But what we have to bear in mind is what people can see or what people have been looking at for the past 30 years, and particularly the lower portion of the Moresby Buoy, is actually a shell around the original Moresby Buoy. The original Moresby Buoy is encased in an outer metal skin or shell and that is rusting from the inside out and the original Moresby Buoy, which is within that, is worse condition. And also the upper portion of it, the original frame, had another frame built around it and then had the timbers added to it so that’s what people have been looking at. It is the Moresby Buoy but it is covered with additional structures to keep it intact and has been, as the Councillors said, been in place (on the Causeway) since the late 1980s.”

Independent inspection and reconstruction estimate

Mr Moloney continued: “Once it was removed from the site, it was agreed that we would have it independently inspected and we contacted a local company (Coffey Engineering) to do that and they inspected it, on site, last Friday (January 7). And they have confirmed the view that is beyond repair. We have requested (from) them an estimate for the reconstruction of the buoy and that is the current situation and the manner in which we have been advancing this project. I take on board Cllr Geoghegan’s notice of motion. I and the Council would have no difficulty whatsoever in engaging in such a process if that is the wish of the Council.”

A remotely held meeting which will involve the relevant Council Executive members, the District Councillors, the members of the former Abbeyside Pattern Committee (which installed the buoy) and representatives from the County Museum, is now being arranged. Mr Moloney confirmed to Councillors that the Council had already been in contact with the former Pattern Committee members in advance of the buoy’s removal last month. “They were the people who had the greatest vested interest in it,” he stressed.

Echoing Mr Moloney’s position, Director of Services Kieran Kehoe (who manages the Executive’s Dungarvan brief) said: “Some commentary, especially online, that suggested the Council had in some way shown disrespect to the heritage – I have to be quite categorical here – it’s the complete opposite here. In the summer of last year, Raymond Moloney brought me out to show me the state of the Moresby Buoy. It was falling apart where it was. It was absolutely lethal, actually, if you want to be honest about it. Open holes with rusted steel and if a child was to put their hand in there, at the main landing point of the Greenway into our town, we would have been a laughing stock, to be honest with you.”

The upper wooden section of the buoy, pictured in a Council yard near the Park Hotel.
Photo: Joe O’Riordan/Facebook

“No intention to do anything behind the scenes.”  

Kieran Kehoe continued: “We have secured funding to upgrade the whole of Moresby Park, the primary landing point of the Greenway and I must compliment Ray and the staff in relation to that work being done. And I must compliment Raymond Moloney as well himself in that he said to me that this was a hugely sensitive issue…he explained the full history of it to me and he said he already got our guys to engage with the Pattern Committee and that was in July. They were further engaged directly by Raymond himself in December so to suggest that this was done without anyone being made aware of this is not true. We did so and we did so in conjunction with the people who had put it there on day one. We did so by notifying yourselves at the meeting in December and as Raymond said with timing of reports and timing of actions, that’s just the way they fell in the December meeting. There was no intention to do anything behind the scenes or (do) anything untoward and without any lack of respect. The importance of this maritime piece of heritage is phenomenal to the maritime history of the town and it is our actions indeed to try and protect it and preserve it. And just in relation to some of the commentary, that people think this is fixable.”

Showing the image of the interior decay of the buoy to members, Mr Kehoe stated: “There was a skin put outside the original Moresby Buoy so what you see when you’re walking along – the red-coloured material – is actually an outside layer. You can see the two layers. Look at what’s internally inside – it’s effectively gone and to suggest that that’s in any way repairable is completely false. Raymond has admitted that he’s not an engineer. I’m an engineer who worked, would you believe, in metal and steel fabrication for seven years before joining the local authority systems. And that is not repairable. Even if you put in new sheet metal, it’s not the original Moresby Buoy and you can make a pastiche replica of it. But we’ve been straight up in all the actions that we’ve done here to make the public aware of our intentions here – and it was always, as Raymond said, to assess it and see what could be done and it was identified that it wasn’t repairable. So we’re now looking at other avenues. We’ve already sought a price from a very specialist local metal fabricator to create the exact replica – and that’s our intention here…We want to get this done and brought back into Moresby Park as soon as we can…and we want the Moresby Buoy, its replica or whatever is it that the group agrees to go in there, we want that back there as soon as we can.”

The price for these works, said Mr Kehoe, is “currently being worked on”.

The base of the buoy in the former Dungarvan dump.
Photo: Joe O’Riordan/Facebook

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