Achillhenge, the “ornamental garden” site on Achill Island that resembles Stonehenge, remains at the center of controversy as the battle continues between the site’s developer Joe McNamara and Irish courts.
TheJournal.ie reports that there are still ongoing discussions regarding the controversial structure built on a hilltop in Pollagh on Achill Island. The site has been a point of contention since it was first constructed without planning permission late last year.
Joe McNamara was forced to serve several days in jail last November when he refused to halt construction of the site. This summer, An Bord Pleanála reviewed the site and also deemed that it needed to be taken down. Mayo County Council won a court battle against McNamara which said that McNamara never sought the proper planning permission.
McNamara, however, has claimed that he did not need to obtain planning permission, as Achillhenge is his work of art and an “ornamental garden.”
In late July, the High Court determined that McNamara’s site is, in fact, a development and appropriate planning permission should have been sought. Justice Brian McGovern ruled on July 26th that the site needs to be removed or demolished, yet no progress seems to have been made in regards to his ruling as the site is still standing and attracting tourists.
Achill Tourism offered no comment in regards to Achillhenge, but local reports indicate that the contested site still regularly attracts visitors. The last Winter Solstice saw a number of people come to the site, and signs have been erected in the area helping to direct travelers to the site.
Further, a BBC News local poll showed that most people thought the site should remain as-is.
Reporter Donald Mahoney initially marveled at the site when he visited it to report for Dublin Review. Said Mahoney, “It looked unshakeable. It had clearly been inspired by Stonehenge, but it had an eerie contemporaneity because it was made of cold, cheap concrete.”
The site has been nicknamed the “boom tomb” by some as it stands as a sort of graveyard to Ireland’s long-gone Celtic Tiger era, particularly since it resembles a gutted-house, a sight too common during the struggling housing market in Ireland.
Mahoney, however, would come to have his awe diminished, especially as “inane” graffiti was scrawled on the site, and obvious structural concerns were blatant to even the untrained eye.
Said Mahoney, “I departed feeling that despite the fascinating things it does to and within the landscape, and the public interest it has generated, Achillhenge is first and foremost a monument to its creator. In its disrespect for the law and the environment, it embodies the spirit of feckless development that has crippled Ireland.”
Others, however, hold the site in high regard and wish to see it left intact as it could serve as a source for archaeological research.
Researcher, computer scientist and classical musician Richard Brock believes that the acoustic properties of Achillhenge could provide vital clues to musical archaeologists. He says the sounds made in the centre of the circle match the properties of Stonehenge and allow a firsthand look into how ancient musical instruments sounded.
The courts remain steadfast in their decision to see the site demolished. County Secretary John Condon said that if McNamara fails to meet their requests, the council would carry out the demolition and apply for costs through the courts afterwards.
More than a month after July 26th’s decision, however, Achillhenge remains very much still-standing, paving the way for perhaps more legal troubles for McNamara in coming weeks.