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Phoenix Park gates removed for Pope Francis visit will cost over €800,000 to restore

The Office of Public Works hopes the gates will be rehung by the end of this year.

Image: Google Street View

THE REFURBISHMENT OF the famous gates of the Phoenix Park, which were removed in advance of the visit of Pope Francis, will cost just over €820,000.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is hoping the gates will be rehung by the end of this year with restoration works on them due to be completed by September.

Records obtained following a Freedom of Information request show how the cost of refurbishment for the eight pairs of gates will cost €726,735, excluding VAT of 13.5%.

The contract for the work, which the OPW has described as highly specialised, has been awarded to Dublin-based Dunfox, also known as Bushy Park Ironworks.

The company has crafted and restored bespoke historic gates and railings at the Shelbourne Hotel, Blackrock College, Howth Castle, and the K Club, according to its website.

The gates, which range in age from 114 to 187 years old, were first taken down in August 2018 before Pope Francis said an open-air mass for 132,000 people in the Phoenix Park.

There have been some grumblings in the locality about how long it has taken for them to be rehung and for temporary gates to be removed.

However, the Office of Public Works said the project had been complex with a “full conservation assessment of each of the gates” required.

Gerard Kennedy of the OPW said: “[We had] to determine the extent and nature of the restoration works and repairs that would be necessary, with all works to be undertaken in compliance with conservation best standards.”

They decided to break the project into two separate contracts, one for restoration and a separate tender for the restoration of adjoining walls and support piers along with traffic management.

The original contract – valued at €726,735 excluding VAT – could only be given to a contractor with “demonstrable expertise” of this type of conservation work.

A number of tenderers visited the sites and examined the gates over a weekend in September 2019 with tender responses returned in October.

The winning bid by Dunfox (Bushy Park Ironworks) was described as the “lowest tender price received”.

It started work on the refurbishment of the gates in January with a nine-month timeline for completion of the project by the end of September.

The OPW also said that rehanging of the gates will be a significant piece of work, which may require temporary road closures.

A second contract to carry out masonry repairs to historic walls and piers will be required as well as removal of the temporary gates that have been in place.

It said it was likely the rehanging would take place over a number of separate weekends, the “programme for which will have to take account of any already scheduled events in the Phoenix Park to minimise any risks to the public or for the contractors”.

The OPW said this contract will be awarded towards the end of the summer to ensure that the gates can be back in place as soon as possible. No estimate of the value of that contract is available as yet.

Gerard Kennedy of the OPW said they were optimistic the gates would be back in place by Christmas.

However, traffic will have to be carefully managed particularly at the busy Castleknock and city centre gates, and it is still not fully clear how much repair works will be required to the adjoining walls and piers.

Two of the gates involved, the Islandbridge and Chapelizod entrances, date from 1833 while the entrance at Castleknock was put in place the following year.

Gates at Ashtown and Cabra followed in 1835 while newer gates at the North Circular Road and Blackhorse Avenue date from around 1906.

A separate set of gates at Knockmaroon Hill did not end up being removed for the Papal mass. However, restoration works on them will also go ahead.

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About the author:

Ken Foxe  / Journalist lecturer and freelance reporter

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