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Bridges of Dublin City, Part 3

Welcome to the final instalment of our: Bridges of Dublin city series. There are 21 bridges spanning the River Liffey, each with their own story to be told.. In this three-part blog series we will introduce you to each one of these bridges and give you a little history about them.. Below are the next set of seven bridges in the spotlight.

Rosie Hackett Bridge

The most recent addition to the family of Liffey bridges was opened in May 2014. It was built exclusively to carry public transport, taxis, cyclists and pedestrians linking Marlborough Street on the north side to Hawkins Street on the south side. A modern single span concrete structure it sits comfortably and unobtrusively between its two more elegant neighbours O’Connell Bridge and Butt Bridge.

This was the first time the citizens of Dublin had an input into the naming of one of their bridges. All of the suggestions were whittled down by Dublin City Council and Rosie Hackett finally won the day. Rosie Hackett was born in 1892 and like many others in Dublin at that time was reared in tenements on the north side of the city. As a teenager she began work in Jacobs Biscuits where working conditions were very poor. She managed to organise the 3,000 or so workers to withdraw their labour to secure better pay and working conditions which they succeeded in achieving. Because of the active part she played in The Lock Out 1913

/1914 she lost her job with Jacobs, however, she went on to devote most of her life to the trade union movement. She also became very active in The Irish Citizen Army and fought alongside Michael Mullen and Countess Markievicz in The Royal College of Surgeons one of the last strongholds to surrender to the British Army in 1916.

This is the only Dublin bridge currently named to honour a woman unless you count Anna Livia Bridge, in Chapelizod, which is James Joyce’s female personification of the River Liffey I jest! I am sure you will agree that this bridge named by Dubliners in her memory is a fitting tribute to this formidable lady

Talbot Memorial Bridge

In the 1970’s Butt Bridge was struggling to cope with the heavy volumes of two way traffic so a decision was made, despite the other demands on the public purse in those recessionary times, to build a new bridge downstream. The plan was to use Butt Bridge to carry northbound traffic and the new bridge to carry all southbound traffic.

Work began in 1976 and the bridge opened in February 1978. A practical and workmanlike structure, this three span bridge used prestressed concrete, its first use in Dublin, in its construction. With its four traffic lanes and two wide footpaths, linking Custom House Quay and Memorial Road on the north side to City Quay and Moss Street on the south side it was an instant hit with commuters.

Talbot Memorial Bridge, or as most Dubliners call it Matt Talbot Bridge, was named for Matt Talbot who was to become the figurehead of the Temperance Movement. Matt was born into poverty on the north side of Dublin in 1856 and by his early teens had become an alcoholic. At an early age, as he looked at those around him, he realised how bleak his future looked and he turned to God and religion. He led a very private life of prayer, penance and fasting and it was only after his sudden death in 1925 when people learned of his lifestyle, and he became well known as the Catholic Church and The Temperance Movement venerated him and his way of life. His statue stands at the southern end of the bridge.

Also remembered on this bridge are the Irish merchant sailors, 136 of them, who lost their lives at sea while bringing vital supplies to Ireland during World War II. Although a neutral country, our merchant fleet was targeted, and all too often bombed or torpedoed, with devastating effect

Butt Bridge

Linking Tara St. on the south side to Beresford Place on the north, the original bridge was opened in 1879. Designed by Bindon Blood Stoney, an engineer with The Port of Dublin & a name we should be familiar with by now, he was responsible for the rebuilding of a number of the older Liffey bridges. His design featured two masonry spans from both banks of the river & a central cast iron swivel section which was opened powered by a steam engine to allow shipping to pass & berth close to what is now O’Connell Bridge.

By 1888, however, the swivel section was decommissioned as Stoney realised that the running costs far outweighed the tolls levied on the ships using it. The original design probably played a part in its demise, as at only 5.6m wide, the main carriageway of the bridge struggled to cope with the ever increasing volumes of traffic. By the mid1920’s a decision was made to replace it, the man tasked with the design was the then chief engineer with Dublin Port, Joseph Mallagh. With resources scarce & the priority for the new Government to rebuild some of Dublins iconic buildings; Custom House, The GPO & the Four Courts, which had been heavily damaged in the conflicts of the preceding years, Mallagh chose to use reinforced concrete over the more expensive cut stone. Work began in 1930 & with the expectation of large numbers of visitors for the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, scheduled for June 1932, it was vital for the construction to be completed on time. Despite some difficulties, the bridge opened in June 1932 at a total cost of just under £54,000.

Unlike many of its fellow bridges, Butt Bridge, named for the Home Rule Movement leader Isaac Butt, has remained unchanged since 1879. One interesting point to note is that there is a series of tunnels built into the underside of the bridge to carry services, water etc., and they are approximately 2m high to allow for maintenance, did you know that?

Loop Line Bridge

Transport was one of the key planks for the success of Victorian industrialisation and so this bridge was built, joining the railway lines entering the south of the city to those on the north side, with a view to having a seamless rail network throughout the country. Designed by John Chaloner Smith, a prominent railway engineer, it crossed the Liffey and spanned several Dublin streets and carries two railway lines.

Built of cast iron, wrought iron and limestone, it opened in 1891.During the design and planning phase, the project caused quite a degree of controversy primarily as it was argued that the sheer scale of the bridge would spoil the view of Gandon’s splendid Custom House from O’Connell

Bridge. However, as most of the middle classes, having left their Dublin mansions which were rapidly becoming the rat infested slums for the leafier suburbs, would for the most part be unaffected by the sight of this new bridge, the project got underway helped in no small way by the financial support of Sir Edward Guinness, one of Dublin’s wealthiest citizens.

This was the second railway bridge over the Liffey in Dublin the first being the Liffey Viaduct 1877 which we featured in a previous post. As I mentioned earlier the bridge was no stranger to controversy and over its lifetime there have been many suggestions on how to improve or alter its appearance, including one plan to demolish it and build a railway tunnel under the Liffey all of which came to nothing. Like it or loath it, this bridge has stood the test of time with careful maintenance, it now carries far more rail traffic than could ever have been imagined by John Chaloner Smith in 1891. It is truly a fitting tribute to his design and engineering skills

Sean O'Casey Bridge

A pedestrian swing bridge linking City Quay on the South side with North Wall Quay and The IFSC on the North side. Opened in July 2015 the bridge was commissioned by the now defunct Dublin Docklands Development Authority. It was part of the DDDA’s plan to regenerate the derelict quaysides on both sides of the river which were abandoned as the main port moved further east to accommodate the ever larger cargo vessels. It was a great example of European co-operation, with various sections being built in Ireland, England, France and Denmark before being assembled on site in Dublin. The whole project was completed in 30 months, from design to completion, which for a public works task is quite remarkable.

As I mentioned earlier it was a swing which could be opened to allow smaller craft to sail upriver to the Talbot Memorial Bridge, however, in 2010 the remote control device, used to open the bridge, was mislaid and wasn’t replaced until 2014. It was named for the playwright Sean O’Casey, who lived in the North Wall area in the early 20th century. As with many of the city’s landmarks, Dubliners have a habit of giving them humorous names, this bridge became known as “The Quiver in the River” because of slight movement felt as one walks across the bridge

Samuel Beckett Bridge

This is the second Liffey bridge designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the other being James Joyce Bridge covered in an earlier post. Opened in December 2009, this bridge links Guild Street on the north side to Sir John Rogerson’s Quay and Macken Street on the south side.

Built in Rotterdam and transported on a barge to be installed in Dublin, this was a journey of some 1,000 kilometres. It must have been an incredible site to witness the completed bridge make its way up the river to be positioned here.

The bridge pivots 90 degrees to allow free movement of vessels further upriver. The design of the bridge, symbolising a harp lying on its edge, represents one of our oldest musical

instruments and also the Irish National Symbol which dates back to the 13th Century.

When completed the bridge was not lauded by all as some commentators were critical of the traffic management restrictions which were in place on the approaches to the bridge, which were deemed to slow access to the crossing, and perhaps defeat the purpose of the bridge to ease congestion elsewhere. Whatever your thoughts are you will agree that it is a bold and striking design and is a fitting salute to the massive regeneration that has taken place, in the recent past, of the once derelict Quays

Tom Clarke Bridge

Linking The North Wall to Ringsend, the bridge was opened in October 1984 following a tightly controlled construction period of eighty weeks. The bridge replaced a number of ferries which had operated on this part of the river since 1655. A practical and functional design, the centre section of this four span bridge lifts to allow river traffic pass upriver and is opened on average three times daily.

Originally developed by NTR it quickly reached its daily target of 11,000 vehicles. The bridge reverted to Dublin City Council in December 2015. In the recent past, numbers averaged some 17,000 vehicle crossings per day.

The bridge was re-named in 2016 for Tom Clarke, to mark the centenary of his execution in May 1916 for his part as one of the leaders of the Easter Rising. He was the last of the leaders to be honoured by the city.

It is a perfect place to enjoy the view of the Dublin skyline to the west, Dublin Docklands and Dublin Bay to the east where the Liffey finally completes its journey to the sea. Despite its official title, to most of us it will always be known as The East Link

We really hope you've enjoyed this mini-series and hope you've learnt something new about our beautiful capital city!

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