Achill-henge is over 4 metres (13 ft) high and 100 metres (330 ft) in circumference. It consists of a circle of 30 concrete columns topped by a ring of stone. No attempt was taken to replicate or reference historic stone circles in the region or the country as it is the inspiration and creation of one man and a standalone monument of our time.
The term Achill-henge was spontaneously and immediately used to describe the structure from the time of its construction and can be interpreted as a reference to the culturally described ancient stone circles such as Stonehenge and numerous stone circles throughout Ireland an d Europe.
One Weekends Work
Achill-henge was constructed over just one weekend in November 2011 by Joe McNamara, an Irish property developer in defiance of the 2008 banking fiasco. A team of workers hauled the large precast concrete slabs up the hill and sank them expertly in the stark and empty Achill bog giving it a serene sense of beauty and magesty. It consists of a circle of 30 concrete columns topped by a ring of capstones. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
An Magnificent Ornamental Garden
Mayo County Council’s stuff shirts were upset by the presence of the structure and requested a court order demanding that McNamara remove the imposing edifice as it had been built without planning permission. McNamara with a flair for artistry and publicity claimed that the structure was exempt from planning rules as an “ornamental garden”.
Theresa McDonald, Director of the Achill Archaeological Field School, also raised objections on the ridiculously lame grounds that the structure may be less than 500 metres (1,600 ft) from a Bronze-Age archaeological site.
An Anathema to the Establishment
The High Court required McNamara to cease further work on the site, and as he was found to be in breach of this, he was jailed for three days for contempt of court. The Court referred the planning decision to An Bord Pleanala, which in July 2012 upheld the Council’s decision for its removal.
Many local people have expressed admiration for the work as an impressive feat of engineering, and a newspaper poll found a majority of locals in support of keeping the structure. On 8 January 2012, it was featured as part of the Prime Time programme on RTÉ in Ireland. Achill Henge is still standing and will continue to outlive its critics and detractors.
A Symbol of Protest
Joe McNamara is noted in Ireland for a series of protests against Anglo-Irish Bank and the government’s handling of the 2008 Irish banking and financial crisis. He once drove a concrete mixer truck into the gates of Leinster House the home of the Irish parliament, causing minor damage to the paintwork of the gateway. He was found not guilty of criminal damage or dangerous driving. McNamara described the awe inspiring Achill-henge which looks magnificent in contrast with its stark surroundings as “a place of reflection“.
The purpose of the structure while never been fully established is widely believed to be built as a protest to much of the failings of the Celtic Tiger. In the middle of the structure a concrete semi-circle is still visible, as is a rectangular concrete base.
The Perfect Canvas
Roscommon illustrator and street artist Joe Caslin, saw it as simply ‘the perfect canvas’. Caslin, along with a team of 12 people, including photographers, pasters and helpers, turned the site into a temporary art installation with 30 12-foot drawings of a young Irish male, as part of his ongoing ‘Our Nation’s Sons’ project.
Joe and his team set about making the dream a reality, and putting a ‘positive slant’ on a site that has been loaded by officialdom or officialdumb with ridiculous controversy since its construction. “From the minute I saw it I always wanted to do something on it,” explained Caslin.
Our Nation’s Sons
Officially, the Our Nation’s Sons project is said to “use portrait drawings as a tool to provoke and question current representations of young men in today’s society.” In the illustrator’s own words, the project aims to “put the focus back on the lads” and to get people talking again. “It’s to portray them in a different light.