A number of people gathered on the Winter solstice to watch and celebrate the first ever solstice at Ireland's youngest monument, mysterious 'Achill-henge' on Achill Island built by developer Joe McNamara, County Mayo, Ireland. 21st December 2011
‘Achill-henge’, a stonehenge-type structure is located on a hilltop on Achill Island, near the village of Keel. The monument was built at the end of November 2011 by property developer Joe McNamara. A native of Achill, he was already ‘famous’ around Ireland for driving a cement mixer into the gates of Leinster House (Irish Government buildings), in protest against politicians who were at 'fault that he couldn't repay the money he borrowed from the banks. Joe is also known locally for a ‘phantom’ shop construction site on Achill Island that has never been finished and has been left for a number of years.
'Achill-Henge' structure was built in record time, over the weekend. 30 articulated trucks arrived from Galway with pre-cast concrete blocks and the basic structure was ready a few hours later. It is composed of a circle, 30metres in diameter and 30 related columns, each measuring nearly 4.5metres high.
Many locals, tourists and observers have speculated ‘Achill-henge’ would have a similar function to other sites, such as Stonehage or Newgrange, with sunrises during the solstices. The sun would rise and pass through the gaps between the pillars to light up a centerpiece, which has yet to be revealed. Others see it as a statue in memory of the end of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ era.
There is also a lot of controversy around the sculpture. Mayo County Council is seeking a High Court order compelling developer Joe McNamara to demolish the structure, built without planning permission and being carried out on an area of mountain bogland with high scenic value, located near an archaeological site.
In contrast, many locals see this project as Ireland’s newest tourist attraction, possibly bringing more visitors to West and to Achile Island. It looks a lot better than a whole lot of over-priced ‘sculptures’ that went up around Ireland over the last ten years. The Mayo News, a local newspaper, carried out a poll showing support for its retention with 80% of the 563 participants wanting the structure to remain.
Well, the future of 'Achill-Henge' is up in the air for the moment. So, if you want to see it you need to be quick! Don’t let the weather put you off.