Michael Davitt Bridge (2008) Achill Island, Mayo
The Michael Davitt Bridge is a swing bridge which connects Achill Island with the mainland in County Mayo. Named after the 19th Century Fenian and founder of the National Land League, it replaced a bridge of the same name which was no longer suitable for the level of traffic crossing to the island.
The Achill Sound channel is prone to strong currents and wind and in the 1800s the only ways to cross it were by foot or horseback at low tide or by means of a ferry. After many years planning sufficient funds were raised to begin construction of a bridge in 1886. The new structure, a swing bridge pivoting on one central pier to allow boats past, was completed a year later and named after Davitt who officially opened it.
The bridge was designed for lightweight horse-drawn traffic and greatly deteriorated once heavier motor traffic became common in the 1900s. The Achill islanders campaigned for a larger and wider bridge and in 1947 Mayo County Council decided on a plan to demolish the bridge and replace it entirely. The new swing bridge was built by J.C. McLaughlin of Dublin and was at that time the largest bridge construction project undertaken by an Irish company. It was completed early in 1949.
By the early 2000’s this second bridge was experiencing problems with the swing mechanism and a decision was taken that the best course of action was to replace it.
The third Michael Davitt Bridge, which opened in 2008, was designed by Malachy Walsh & Partners to a design based on a Spanish Calatrava architectural design model. It is 6.5m (21.5 ft) wide, 225.5m (740 ft) long and weighs 390 tons. The bridge is illuminated at night by LED lighting integrated into the bridge design.