By Damian Dolan
Mayo County Council Chief executive Peter Hynes said he “regrets” the removal of two roadside memorials to a murdered Gaelic footballer from Hertfordshire.
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.
Cllr Hynes admitted that the council’s actions added to the suffering of the Deacy family, and hoped that a meeting could be arranged soon between the family and the council.
“I do regret if our actions have in any way exacerbated the suffering of the family. I do regret that,” said Cllr Hynes, speaking at last week’s monthly meeting of the authority.
“I think a meeting might be a prudent step forward and the situation can be taken on from there.”
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 the council on 17 January without prior notification to the family.
Cllr Hynes added: “It is a very sensitive situation and I know it was discussed at the West Mayo Municipal District and there was a suggestion made that a meeting would be facilitated.
“To my knowledge that meeting has not happened, but it can still happen and in my view it should. I think that might help to clear up some of the concerns.”
Councillor Gerry Ginty described the council’s removal of the memorials as “shameful” and “insensitive”, and said something needed to be done to “put it right”.
He said: “I think this family have suffered enough and I think they deserve to be dealt with very, very sensitively.
“I think the family should be allowed to come before the council and voice their concerns.
“There may be rules and regulations, but rules and regulations have been changed in the past. What annoys some people is that for certain memorials, there is no problem they can be big, huge and ugly.
“But this was a tiny thing, not of a very lasting, light timber, it was no danger to anybody and I think it is wrong.”
His comments were echoed by Councillor Gerry Coyle, who asked how many other memorials had been removed and why the memorials were removed so quickly.
Mr Coyle said their removal had nothing to do with road safety.
Mayo County Council has previously said it removed the memorials because they were a “visual distraction” to passing motorists by Mayo County Council.
That was reiterated by Tom Gilligan, Director of Services for Assets, at last month’s Roads and Transportation Special Policy Committee (SPC) meeting.
The Council said it had received a number of complaints regarding the memorials.
Joe Deacy’s father, Adrian, disputes both of these explanations and previously said Mayo County Council had been ‘disingenuous to the truth’ over its reasons for their removal.
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 the SPC 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 will now go before members of Mayo County Council for consideration and adoption in due course.