By Damian Dolan
The father of murdered Hertfordshire Gaelic footballer Joe Deacy has called Mayo County Council “disingenuous with the truth”, following the removal of roadside memorials to his son.
Joe, 21, died from head injuries sustained when he was attacked while on holiday in Co Mayo in August 2017.
Speaking to RTÉ’s Liveline last week, Joe’s father, Adrian, challenged the reasons given by the council for their removal.
“Mayo County Council’s reasoning for [removing] them is parallel with the truth,” Mr Deacy told Liveline.
“It was a place where Joe’s friends in Ireland could go and remember him.”
Two 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 Mayo County Council on 17 January without prior notification to Joe’s family.
Mr Deacy said he had correspondence from the council stating that the memorials were removed due to complaints to the council “over a six-month period”.
The council also said the memorials were a visual distraction to passing motorists.
However, Mr Deacy refuted this explanation saying that the memorials were in fact only in place for “two weeks” before being removed, and that they did not present a distraction.
He said the memorials were only “two foot high and a foot and a half wide”.
Mr Deacy also told Liveline that the council cited a “minor car collision” as another reason for their removal.
“We’ve asked for verification off the Garda, which they haven’t given us, and that it happened last August. The memorial was placed on 4 January,” he said.
Mr Deacy accepted that the “collision” referred to by the council could have occurred as a result of the commemorations marking the first anniversary of Joe’s death, when flowers were placed by the side of the road.
The main display of flowers read ‘Justice for Joe’ and was 14 foot long. While conceding that it was “quite eye-catching”, Mr Deacy said that it was stolen a few days later.
In a statement sent to Liveline, Mayo County Council confirmed that all other roadside memorials in the county have been erected “as a result of a loss of life following a road traffic collision”.
This explanation was challenged by a caller to the RTÉ show who lived in the area and had seen the memorials to Joe. She said she knew of at least one roadside memorial that was not the result of a traffic accident.
The council also stated that the memorials had not received “prior approval” before being erected.
Mr Deacy said: “What planning permission do you need? As I understand, there is no law in Mayo that says you need planning permission. Are the council now saying that every single one of those structures, they’ve given permission for? I’d be surprised.”
Mr Deacy said he wrote to the “head” of Mayo County Council two weeks ago outlining the family’s complaints, but says he has yet to receive a response.
The issue of roadside memorials is on the agenda for Wednesday night’s (13 March) Mayo County Council meeting.
The Strategic Policy Committee for Roads in Mayo has invited Mr Deacy to attend, but he said he has no plans to as he would not be permitted to speak.
Joe, who played for St Colmcilles GAA club, was found outside a house in Gortnasillagh, near Swinford.
He was taken to Mayo University Hospital and then to Beaumont Hospital where he died a day later.
Joe had been socialising with friends in a pub in Kiltimagh on the night he was attacked.
No one has been charged with Joe’s murder.