Dublin's Millennium Monument Devoid of Christian Reference

DUBLIN, Ireland—A new Millennium Monument scheduled to be built in the heart of the Irish capital has a striking omission: It makes no reference to the main reason for celebrating the event — the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ.

The monument being built by Dublin Corp. on O'Connell Street, the capital's main artery, is a 364-foot-high narrow stainless steel structure costing 3 million pounds ($4.5 million). Its upper 45 feet will be illuminated so that the monument acts as a beacon, twice as high as Liberty Hall, Dublin's tallest building.

The monument will act as a replacement for Nelson's Pillar which once occupied the site. The pillar was a symbol of Dublin, but the outlawed Irish Republican Army blew it up in 1966 because it saw the statue of Admiral Nelson on its top as an outdated symbol of British rule.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Joe Doyle, a Catholic, said, “This monument will be a key feature of the newly refurbished O'Connell Street. It will be erected within the next 12 months and will, I hope, become a familiar and well-loved symbol of Dublin in the third millennium.”

Doyle, who was a member of the judging panel that chose the monument from 205 entries in a public competition, added: “The winning monument will be an important part of the new O'Connell Street. Finding a replacement for Nelson's Pillar was never going to be easy. Everyone has their own opinion on what kind of monument we should have.”

The chairman of the judging panel, Joan O'Connor, described the proposed structure as “elegant and dynamic simplicity — bridging art and technology. …

“The 120-meter-high cone responds well to the scale of the individual, the street, and the city. Tangible and enticing at its base, it leads the eye and the imagination upwards, tapering gracefully into an attractively illuminated tip. The jury felt this brave and uncompromising beacon reflects a confident Ireland in Europe and reaffirms O'Connell Street as Ireland's principal urban thoroughfare.”

But not everyone is happy with the description of the proposed artwork as a millennium statue.

Father Martin Tierney, director of the Irish hierarchy's Jubilee 2000 committee, said he likes the proposed monument's design, but maintained it has nothing to do with the millennium.

“This statue is about providing a decoration for O'Connell Street,” he said. “But it will be just as appropriate to the year 2005 as it would be to the year 2000. It is part of a project to upgrade that part of the city center. The government has money to redevelop O'Connell Street and are just using the millennium as an excuse to give the impression that they are distributing largesse. They are letting on that they are doing something for the millennium.”

Asked if “letting on” meant “lying,” Father Tierney replied: “All I will say is that they are creating an impression that something is happening to celebrate an occasion, but it isn't really.”

The group Millennium Ireland has been campaigning since 1996 for a fitting monument for the millennium or for St. Patrick, Ireland's patron saint, on O'Connell Street or on the Howth Head peninsula north of downtown. The group's organizer John O'Halloran said he was disappointed by the design chosen by Dublin Corp.

“When the idea of a statue for O'Connell Street was put out to tender by Dublin Corp. and the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, there was no mention of the millennium in the competition application form,” O'Halloran said. Architects, urban designers, and artists were invited “to submit a design to reinstate a monument which would have a pivotal role in the composition of O'Connell Street. …

“That is why the committee of Millennium Ireland has written to John Fitzgerald, Dublin city manager, asking him to consider having a special monument erected in O'Connell Street to mark the millennium, which is of course the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ and the moment when God came down into human history. A suitable monument should reflect the Christian nature of the millennium, such as a statue of Christ the King, or of St. Patrick, who brought Christianity to Ireland.”

So far, the proposed monument doesn't have an official name. Dublin Corp. will not even say whether it is a cone, a spike, or a needle.

National newspaper letters pages have been filled with suggestions for names for the structure, many of which make reference to Dublin's litter problem or its drug crisis. Others make reference to what they consider the waste of money involved.

Among the names suggested are “the pin in the bin,” “the spire in the mire,” “the syringe to make you cringe,” and “the pie in the sky.”

At least one writer, however, suggested that the monument may be linked with Christianity. In a letter to The Irish Times, Margaret Horne wrote: “For me, it will symbolize the words in St. John's Gospel Chapter 1, verses 1-5, especially verse 5. ‘A light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower.’”

But not many people take her view. Already a favorite name for the monument is emerging: “the pinnacle for the cynical.”

Cian Molloy writes from Dublin, Ireland.

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