By Damian Dolan
The family of murdered Hertfordshire Gaelic footballer Joe Deacy say they’ve given up in their fight with Mayo County Council over its removal of two roadside memorials to Joe.
The case has become a real-life Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.
The memorials to Joe, sited on the N5 near Swinford, and on the Kinaffe Road (R320) near Bohola, were erected on 4 January by his family.
Both were removed by the council on 17 January without prior notification to the family.
Joe Deacy, 21, died from head injuries after he was attacked while on holiday in Mayo in August 2017. To date no one has been charged.
Joe’s dad, Adrian Deacy, published an open letter to Mayo Council in which he accuses the local authority of stringing the family along and of bad faith.
In the letter he tells council officials that they have “won” and the family will no longer be attempting “to rectify a blatant wrong”.
He said the council had been “impossible” to deal with over the previous five months and accuses it of having been “disingenuous…(with) the simple facts”.
The Deacy family could no longer “bear the emotional stresses and strains involved”, he said.
Mayo County Council said it removed the memorials after a number of complaints had been received and because they were a “distraction” to passing motorists.
Mr Deacy disputes both of these explanations and accused the council of lying to the family on “several occasions” and breaking assurances.
He said: “This is undoubtedly a sad day for us, as we believed that the memorials gave great comfort to a lot of people, but we would prefer to acknowledge our defeat, safe in the knowledge that we have acted legally, respectfully and still have our dignity intact.”
Last month, Mayo Council Chief Executive Peter Hynes told the council’s monthly meeting he regretted the removal of the memorials.
“I do regret if our actions have in any way exacerbated the suffering of the family. I do regret that,” he said.
“I think a meeting might be a prudent step forward and the situation can be taken on from there.”
Meetings have taken place between the council and members of the Deacy family which Mr Deacy now says were little more than a façade:
“We have not remotely been afforded the respect anyone dealing with your Council should be afforded, irrespective of the subject matter.
“We therefore have decided that we can no longer maintain the façade put up by yourselves, that you are still in ongoing “negotiations” with the Deacy Family.”
Mayo County Councillor Gerry Ginty who retires this week, used his final council meeting to request that a resolution be found to make “significant progress” and “fulfil the wishes of the family”.
Cllr Ginty had previously described the council’s removal of the memorials as “shameful” and “insensitive” and said the council needed to “put it right”.
Joe, who played for St Colmcille’s GAA club in St Albans, was found outside a house in Gortnasillagh, near Swinford. Joe had been socialising with friends in a pub in Kiltimagh on the night he was attacked.
He was taken to Mayo University Hospital and then to Beaumont Hospital where he died a day later.
The Council is currently considering introducing clear rules on roadside memorials. A draft policy, which relates to memorials erected in close proximity to locations where fatal collisions have occurred, was presented at a Transportation Special Policy Committee meeting.
Under the policy, all existing memorials erected by members of the public will not be affected.
Where existing memorials need to be replaced, the replacement must comply with the new policy.
All new memorials will be subject to ‘site-specific risk assessments’ at all proposed locations. Large permanent physical structures, such as monuments and shrines will not be permitted for reasons of public safety.
It was reported that it would now go before Mayo County Council for consideration and adoption in due course.
The Irish World, however, has been unable to get clarification from Mayo County Council on when this will be.