Today's Decision means that Laurence's Gate might some day be opened for visitis by tourists. These lucky people were among the 150or so that were allowed up when the barbican was opened for a few hours during the recent Drogheda Arts Festival.
In what is an historic decision for the town of Drogheda, nine of the ten members of the Borough District of Drogheda have voted to adopt the traffic management plan that will allow the closure to vehicular traffic of Drogheda’s iconic Laurence’s Gate. The one dissenting voice was that of Fianna Fail’s Tommy Byrne.
There was one amendment to the traffic plan put by Mayor Oliver Tully who asked that a contra-flow be introduced allowing traffic to turn left from Jim Garry Way as far as the entrance to the entrance to the Laurence Centre car park. This was seconded by Cllr. Richie Culhane.
Calling on all councillors for their support, the proposer of the motion Cllr Kevin Callan said that this effort by himself, members of the Close the Gate Campaign and political efforts had been “the longest road to close the shortest road in our town.”
“I wish to thank all councillors who in advance of this evening have worked with the officials and myself in looking at every possible solution to limit traffic issues” he said.
“I wish to thank the Director Paddy Donnelly and Pat Finn and Eugene Mc Manus. Pat Finn like myself and Cllrs Culhane and Bell has been through this before in his capacity as Borough Engineer.
“In the past we have fallen short of total closure and total protection of the gate because the political will was not there. The plan presented this evening does not change town centre traffic flow at all in Shop Street, Laurence’s Street, William Street, West Street, Palace Street, it puts in place no further traffic signals but sensitively redirects traffic direction in nearby residential streets which are currently impacted upon to an inordinate level.
“This evening sitting in this chamber with councillors who have been so vocal and positive I can say how proud I am to have the honour to move such a proposal and motion in your presence.
“It is one year to the day I received a photograph of a truck stuck in the gate and thanks to our local media in the Drogheda Leader, Drogheda Life, Drogheda Independent and LMFM and nationally and internationally RTE, BBC, Country Life Magazine that image went viral, locally, and brought out such a raw sense of pride and concern amongst the people of Drogheda at home and abroad that we must do all that is possible to protect our heritage.
He also thanked all those who made submissions, to residents for suggestions on traffic management, to those who wrote, shared the cause, telephoned and showed such an interest.
“I look forward to hearing the roll call vote and the first day in the of the next 700 years of the life of our gate, our town symbol as a fully protected structure open to pedestrians, tourists, visitors, students, and the People of Drogheda.
In finishing Cllr Callan quoted the Drogheda town motto which appears on the town crest with St Laurence’s Gate: “God our strength, merchandise our glory”. Never was a motto more relevant to our vote today” he said.
Seconding the motion Cllr. Paul Bell said that it was always his position that the gate should be closed.
“Allowing traffic to drive thorough Laurence’s Gate was like allowing traffic to drive up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and through the Arc de Triumph” he said. “Laurence’s Gate is our iconic emblem, a symbol of our town’s heritage and must be protected.”
These sentiments were echoed by member after member with several saying that the traffic plan as it stands is not the full solution and that could not come about until the Northern Access Route was put in place which many acknowledged was some years away at best.
Cllr. Pio Smith voiced some worries about certain aspects of the traffic plan and suggested that active monitoring was the order of the day. He also suggested that the speed limit on the Chord Road should be changed to 30km/h.
Cllr. Joanna Byrne said that she was glad to see that most of the issues raised during the public consultation had been addressed. She said the Northern Access Route was badly needed but that was no reason to oppose the motion.
Cllr, Frank Godfrey said he had been a long time campaigner forte closure of the gate but that there were many problems with the traffic management plan especially for some local residents, taxi drivers and other motorists but he was supporting the motion because he wanted to see the gat protected.
Cllr. Richie Culhane acknowledged a full public gallery and said that this was a great moment in the town’s history that the gate would be preserved for future generations to enjoy in Drogheda, Ireland and for Droghedeans all over the world.
Cllr. Tommy Byrne, who had flagged his opposition to the plan all week in the media, said that he saw the traffic management plan as an experiment but one that was experimenting with other people’s livelihoods and he could not support it in its current form.
He said it was like waiting for Godot waiting for progress on the Northern Access Route but Mayor Oliver Tully assured him that this project was still alive and that the Council had bought most of the land that was needed for it to take place.