The Liffey and a bridge too far: Bridge-building and governance in Dublin 1870-1960


  • Joseph Brady University College Dublin



There are currently 23 bridges over the Liffey westwards from Lucan but only five of them were built east of O’Connell Bridge since 1850 and one is a pedestrian only bridge. This was despite a pressing need for a better system of traffic circulation that was obvious from the middle of the nineteenth century as the city and its docklands continued their eastwards expansion. That need was recognised by the civic authorities but the complex system of local governance with overlapping responsibilities ensured that satisfactory solutions were difficult to achieve. There were issues of power, of funding and of taxation as well as competing needs. Even the naming of bridges could not be easily accomplished. This paper examines the issue of bridge provision from 1880, the year that the widened Carlisle Bridge was reopened as O’Connell Bridge. The main focus of attention will be the initial building of Butt Bridge, its subsequent rebuilding and the intractable problem of building a bridge to the east of Butt Bridge. A novel solution in the form of a transporter bridge was proposed, which would have added a distinctive element to the city’s streetscape but nothing was accomplished in the thirty years to 1960.

The city of Dublin during the period 1930-1950 has not been widely studied. Using a variety of sources, newspapers, civic minutes, Oireachtas debates, maps, photographs and graphics, this paper aims to shed light on one important aspect of civic governance and to show how the city might have been transformed had matters been handled in a different way.




How to Cite

Brady, J. (2015). The Liffey and a bridge too far: Bridge-building and governance in Dublin 1870-1960. Irish Geography, 47(2), 75–103.