Drogheda: Campaign to protect historic Norman gate

Drogheda gate
Image caption Campaigners want to stop traffic from passing under St Laurence's Gate

A campaign has been launched in Drogheda to protect part of the town's medieval heritage after a truck got stuck trying to drive through St Laurence's Gate.

Campaigners want to stop traffic from passing under St Laurence's Gate, a Norman fortification.

The County Louth town at the mouth of the River Boyne is steeped in history.

The 5,000-year-old Newgrange tomb is nearby, as is the Battle of the Boyne site.

The town also hosts King William's mace. Oliver Cromwell laid siege to Drogheda and is reputed to have slaughtered many, but that is now disputed by some.

Image caption A truck recently got stuck trying to pass through the arch of the stoned fortress

The town was once a walled fortress and some of those fortifications remain, including St Laurence's Gate which was built in the 13th century.

At the moment traffic can pass under the gate, but independent councillor Kevin Callan hopes that will soon change.

"When you look at the structure and its history, it was there to protect Drogheda from sea invasion," Mr Callan said.

"It withstood Cromwell and many invasions and really and truly to have it damaged by a truck that could close it down after 800 years, it would be an absolute sin if we were to allow that to happen."

Sin or not, a truck recently got stuck trying to pass through the arch of the stoned fortress known as a barbican.

The image was published in several newspapers.

St Laurence's Gate consists of two lofty circular towers joined together by a wall with strategically placed opening to allow the defenders to see out.

Image caption Councillor Kevin Callan said the town's history must be protected

Historian Audrey Smith is the secretary of the Close the Gate Campaign.

"Our idea is to protect the gate and all the medieval structures in Drogheda and make the gate the gateway to the north east and for Drogheda to be the jewel of that," she said.

It's a laudable goal and one that seems to have the support of many townspeople.

Hillary Kelly, who works in a local art gallery, said: "From a practical point of view it's really dangerous for traffic. And as a tourist attraction we can't really use it.

"People can't get near it or up on it because it's dangerous. We closed it to traffic at the beginning of May for a festival and for four hours people were able to get up on the monument and there are fantastic views of the sea and all around the countryside from it.

"It got booked out in no time. So, there is a market and for tourists to come and see it."

Image caption Drogheda, at the mouth of the river Boyne, is a town steeped in history

Andrew Spearman, a photo-journalist, said: "It should have been closed to traffic years ago. It's a no-brainer. If the will was there on the council, it would have been. But they've been arguing for so long they've forgotten what they're arguing about."

So, who, you might wonder is opposed to stopping traffic - estimated at more than 1,000 vehicles a day - from passing through the gate?

"Taxi drivers" I was told, because they believe it would add to the already bad congestion.

But, among them there was divided opinion and no one wanted to be interviewed on camera.

If the campaigners get their way St Laurence's Gate might see the last vehicle pass under it later this year.

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