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Leave Achill-henge standing – Mayo News poll

Poll results

Leave Achill-henge standing - Mayo News poll

Edwin McGreal

As Mayo County Council seek a High Court order compelling Achill property developer to demolish a Stonehenge-esque structure on Achill Island, a Mayo News poll has shown a groundswell of support for its retention.
And this week an art expert, with a particular interest in the area of public art, has spoken in favour of the structure, dubbed Achill-henge locally.
Over 80 per cent of those who took part in the poll answered yes to the question: ‘Should Achill-henge be left standing?’ At the time of going to print, 563 people had polled.
Meanwhile John Mulloy, a lecturer in Art History and Critical Theory at GMIT, who teaches a module in Rural Art, believes it ticks a lot of boxes for public art.
The circular structure on a hill in Pollagh, Achill, has caused untold controversy since it first appeared there late last month.
It was built by controversial developer Joe McNamara, dubbed ‘The Anglo Avenger’ after a series of high-profile protests against the bank. McNamara led the construction of the structure over the course of one weekend, late last month.
He was served with two High Court injunctions by a council planner that weekend but continued working. Justice Roderick Murphy jailed him for three days for contempt of court last week for ignoring those injunctions.
While work on the structure finished on Sunday evening, November 27, the development is described as ‘incomplete’.
Mayo County Council informed the court on Wednesday last that it is seeking an order compelling McNamara to demolish the building.
The structure, the purpose of which remains unclear, was described by counsel for McNamara as a ‘place of reflection’. McNamara has submitted to Mayo County Council a Section 5 application, under the Planning and Development Acts to have the structure declared exempted development.
However counsel for Mayo County Council, Mr Pat Butler, SC, said this application was not valid as the council still don’t know what the structure is.
The structure is close to four and a half metres high and almost 100 metres in circumference and consists of 30 large columns with tapping stones placed on top.


John Mulloy, a native of Westport, believes it would be ‘a shame’ if it was taken down.
“One of the traditions, almost a rule, in art, is that of breaking the rules. It is almost a cliché now, but it has been so going back to the 18th century…
“[Achill-henge] is something built without any planning and people really like it and yet there are so many things built with full planning which people hate.
“I think that it is built from cast concrete is very significant given the culture in Achill. A lot of people from the island would have worked with cast concrete and there are a lot of houses in Achill with cast concrete roofs, more so than anywhere else I know of,” he told The Mayo News.
Mr Mulloy visited the site personally on Saturday last and was taken aback by what he saw.
“I was down there and the echo in the thing is very strange. It is very open but it gives you a feeling of something that is enclosed. Undoubtedly it has breached planning but the law is a human instrument and if most people like it, can the law not be twisted to the will of the people? We do live in a democracy, after all.
“You really come on it from nowhere. It is not like Newgrange which stands out and draws people from afar, you don’t know this is here until you are right on it. It makes a statement about so many things. It is meaningless in a way, so we can put our own meaning on it. People have taken so many different interpretations out of it.”
He added that a number of major international artists of his acquaintance have expressed a desire to come and see Achill-henge.
The matter is set to come before the High Court again in January.