Council debate over name of new city library

An artist's rendering of the new library building at the Opera Square site.

IT was proposed this week by representatives from the Adare-Rathkeale municipal district that members of Limerick City and County Council consider naming the new library at the Opera Square development, when it is built, after Donogh O’Malley – the man credited with opening up second-level education to all.

Councillors from the district, in suggesting the move, expressed strong feelings that naming the landmark building not be left to the public to decide.

Fianna Fáil councillor Kevin Sheahan told council members that he believed the O’Connell Street Revitalisation Project had offered an opportune time to erect a statue of the late Limerick man and former Education Minister.

Cllr Sheahan now wants to see the new Opera Site library named after O’Malley when completed.

”But it doesn’t have to be that,” Cllr Sheahan insisted.

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“The most important aspect of this proposal is, and it came through the Rathkeale district – it was unanimously agreed – is that we can all agree on something.

“The man’s memory is worthy of unanimous agreement and not a political party agreement, I don’t want that and he wouldn’t want it.

“At the time he was active, there was families I knew well who couldn’t afford 10 pounds a year for our local secondary school in Askeaton. By the late Donogh O’Malley introducing free education for second level students, everybody was availing of secondary school education and that turned out to be the raw material for a university”.

Party colleague Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon said that while he agreed with the sentiment of the proposal, more consideration should be given to naming the new library.

”I think for the Metropolitan councillors, in fairness, the library is in the city, and we would like to have a discussion on it,” Cllr O’Hanlon interjected.

“I don’t think you would be too happy if I went out and said the new library ye are getting out in Askeaton should be called the Kevin Sheahan Library, even though it should be.”

People of Limerick as well, Cllr O’Hanlon felt, also needed to be consulted.

“We just can’t decide in here in a bubble of our own. I have experience in the past of naming bridges about 30 years ago and we had the people of St Mary’s Parish with rosary beads and singing hymns outside the council chamber over what we wanted to do.”

Fine Gael councillor Daniel Butler also erred on the side of caution.

“Let’s call a spade a spade, we are dominated by streets and buildings that are named after men with very few named after women. If anything needs to be considered, we need to be considering a female name as part of this process,” Cllr Butler suggested.

“You can talk about the Dolores O’Riordans of this world, you can talk about the Vicky Phelans of this world, there are plenty of incredible women out there that we could consider.”

Cllr Stephen Keary (FG), however, had a different take.

“There’s a small bit of ‘we stole your biscuit’ with the Metropolitan crowd. We were there first and now you want your say,” he told the chamber.

“I have no problem with you having your say, but I think we need to have courage as well as councillors. I don’t agree with putting it out to the public for their opinion on it.”