A massive Stonehenge-esque structure has appeared on an Achill hilltop over the weekend. The man behind the clandestine project, the purpose of which remains unclear, is Achill native Joe McNamara, also known as ‘The Anglo Avenger’. The structure – dubbed Achill-henge – was built without planning permission. Towering nearly 15 feet from its base, it is 30 metres in diameter and has a circumference of close to 100 metres. Over 30 articulated trucks arrived in Pollagh on Friday from Galway carrying pre-cast concrete, and work began in mid-morning. Pic: Michael Mc Laughlin
Anglo Avenger’s Achill antics
Mystery surrounds Achill-henge project
A massive Stonehenge-esque structure has appeared on an Achill hilltop over the weekend. The man behind the clandestine project, the purpose of which remains unclear, is Achill native Joe McNamara, also known as ‘The Anglo Avenger’ after his high-profile protests against Anglo Irish Bank last year.
Reportedly over six months in planning, the enormous circular structure, which is located on commonage land above Pollagh, was erected at great speed but with a high level of precision. A group of men, with McNamara in charge, worked long hours over the weekend on its construction. The projected cost of its manufacture and installation is believed to be in excess of €1 million.
The structure – dubbed Achill-henge – was built without planning permission, a spokesperson for Mayo County Council told The Mayo News. Towering nearly 15 feet from its base, it is 30 metres in diameter and has a circumference of close to 100 metres. Over 30 articulated trucks arrived in Pollagh on Friday from Galway carrying pre-cast concrete, and work began in mid-morning. Mayo County Council has taken the matter to the High Court.
Speculation is rife as to the purpose of the project. There have been some suggestions that it is being built as a tourist attraction. It is not impossible, given Joe McNamara’s history in relation to protests, that the monument could yet prove to be some sort of political statement. McNamara famously drove a cement lorry with the words ‘Toxic Bank’ and ‘Anglo’ painted on its side, to the gates of Leinster House in September 2010.
When questioned by The Mayo News at the Achill site on Sunday morning, Joe McNamara himself declined to comment on anything relating to the project.
With work taking place over the weekend, often in fading light, there was an ‘under the cover of darkness’ feel about the operation. Many locals were confused about what was afoot. There were rumours that an incinerator was being built, such was the cloaked nature of the project. The Mayo News understands that the project was completed in near darkness on Sunday evening, shortly before 6pm.
A Mayo County Council planning officer arrived on the site on Friday afternoon and asked for work to cease as there was no planning permission for the project. However, work continued and several more visits to the site were made by council planners. Mayo County Council initiated High Court proceedings on Friday and both parties appeared before the court yesterday. The matter has been referred to a High Court sitting expected to take place later this week.
A council spokesman told The Mayo News that ‘the matter is the subject of ongoing enforcement proceedings and will be back before the courts this week’. He would not comment further as, he said, the matter was ‘sub-judice’.
The project is constructed on commonage on a hill in Pollagh looking down on the village and the nearby villages of Keel and Dooagh. McNamara has, reportedly, access to the commonage.
The circular construction is built using precast slabs, which are curved. It would appear that, on close examination of the site, a lot of time and expense has gone into the project.
It is believed that a road is to be built from beside the Achill Head Hotel in Pollagh, which McNamara owns, to the site. Construction access this weekend was via an existing road further down on the road to Dooagh, with a large stretch of the climb being on a rough, bog road.
The Mayo News also understands that the project is based on Stonehenge in more than just appearance. Reportedly the Pollagh version has been built to sync with sunrise on the summer and winter solstices and March and September equinoxes.
It is believed that the sun will rise and shine through the gaps between the ‘stones’ to light up a centre-piece on the site – a centre-piece yet to be built or revealed. What can be seen in the centre is a semi-circular outline for some sort of structure, but what shape or form that will take is unclear. It is believed that it won’t form part of the current development at Achill-henge but may be installed later. However, there is little doubt, on foot of yesterday’s High Court action by Mayo County Council, that it will not be a straightforward matter.
Joe McNamara is a native of Achill Island but has lived in Galway for a number of years. A one-time successful developer, he fell into some financial difficulty in recent years and reportedly owes Anglo Irish Bank €3.5 million.
In his early 40s, McNamara was dubbed ‘The Anglo Avenger’ after a series of protests in 2010. As well as driving the ‘toxic bank’ lorry to the gates of Leinster House, he abandoned the same cement lorry outside Anglo Irish Bank’s offices on Forster Street in Galway and also parked a giant cherry-picker hoist outside the bank’s HQ on St Stephen’s Green.
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