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Friends unveil bench in memory of Neill O’Neill


FAMILY PRIDE Members of the O’Neill family pictured outside the bench dedicated to Neill O’Neill’s memory outside The Jester Bar. From left: Orla, Aoife, Tom Bourke, Emma Joyce, Mary, Kelly, Daria, Alannah, Sarah, Cian, Donagh, Ruairi, Gemma, Siofra, Finbar, Aisling and Conor.

Laneway off Bridge Street now known as Neill O’Neill Lane

Anton McNulty

A FITTING birthday tribute was paid to the late Neill O’Neill by his family and close friends with the naming of a laneway in Westport in his memory along with the unveiling of a memorial bench.
The Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Brendan Mulroy and Kenneth Lavelle of The Jester Bar on Bridge Street, Westport unveiled a bench in memory of the late Neill O’Neill, on what would have been his 38th birthday.
The bench is located outside the Jester Bar, one of Neill’s favourite pubs, in a laneway just off Bridge Street, which will now be known as Neill O’Neill Lane.
A native of Westport, Neill O’Neill was the former Managing Editor of The Mayo News up until his untimely death in October 2017.
Cllr Mulroy and Mr Lavelle both told The Mayo News that Neill did so much good work for Westport in his short life that they believed a fitting tribute was warranted.
“Once his year anniversary passed we sat down and decided it was time to come up with a fitting gesture to Neill,” explained Cllr Mulroy. “Neill made such an impact on the town and its people in his short lifetime and we felt we needed to do something that would resonate.
“The bench is a place where people can come to sit, reflect and talk on anything from football to politics. We were delighted to the reaction to the bench since we unveiled it and I think Neill would have been delighted with it too.”
Kenneth said Neill was ‘not your ordinary run-of-the-mill guy’, and he felt he deserved something more to remember him by. He explained that he had recieved permission from the previous landlord to name the lane and that himself and Neill had been in the process of coming up with a name before he died.
“We were thinking of what to name it and we had the idea of naming it after a well-known person … you see that type of thing in other countries. We had planned to name it the Lemmy Kilmister Lane after the lead singer of Motorhead and have a rock connection to the place. Neill was delighted because he was a big rock fan. We never got a chance to go down that route before he died,” Kenneth recalled.
“Neill had Westport in his heart and he did so much for the town and I felt he deserved something more to remember him by,” before joking: “He did spend a good bit of time out the back there as well as inside the pub, so it is a fitting tribute to him.” The inscription on the bench reads ‘Neill O’Neill no words needed’ and Kenneth said the feedback on the bench and naming the lane after Neill has been ‘fantastic’.
Neill’s partner, Emma Joyce, his mother Mary, brothers, Conor and Finbar, sisters, Aoife and Orla and nephews and nieces were at the unveiling. Kenneth said it was an emotional time for everyone.
“It was great to see Neill’s nieces and nephews around. The bench will be something for them to remember him in years to come and a reminder to be proud of what he did for Westport in his short life.”