It has been just over 24 years since the Jack Lynch Tunnel, one of the biggest engineering projects ever to be undertaken in the history of the State, officially opened.
The historic event took place on Friday, May 21, 1999, with droves of people turning out for the occasion.
The 610m long structure was officially opened by the then taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.
An Echo article from that auspicious day captured the sense of occasion:
“After 21 years of planning and nearly five years of construction, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern cut the tape to officially open the tunnel, named in honour of former Taoiseach Jack Lynch.
“More than 500 guests watched the historic occasion and marvelled at the £80 million underwater highway, which is constructed of three massive concrete tubes — two for traffic and one as an emergency exit for pedestrians.”
Construction on the tunnel was a mammoth task, first involving the excavation of a million tonnes of material, including 150,000 tonnes of limestone rock.
A total of 120,000 cubic metres of concrete was poured in constructing the new infrastructure and approximately 8,000 tonnes of reinforcing steel was used.
Speaking on the day, Mr Ahern said the new tunnel would not only reduce travel times, but would boost the region’s competitiveness and make it even more attractive for business.
“It’s fitting that the new tunnel honours a great Cork man and statesman Jack Lynch for his unique and dedicated service to the city and country over the years,” said Mr Ahern.
“The Jack Lynch Tunnel will stand as a fitting legacy from this century and millennium into the next.”
While Jack Lynch was unable to attend the event, his brother Finbarr and sisters Rena Dunne and Eva Harvey represented him.
The then Lord Mayor of Cork, Joe O’Flynn, along with his wife Mary and then city manager Jack Higgins, were the first people to drive through the tunnel.
Mr O’Flynn said the new road network was already having a positive effect in boosting Cork’s economic life.
“It’s a cause for celebration; every Cork person should be proud of what has been achieved,” he said.
A naval guard of honour and hundreds of flag-waving schoolchildren greeted the Taoiseach at the Mahon end of the tunnel.
The new piece of infrastructure was blessed by Bishop John Buckley and Bishop Paul Colton.
That weekend, Corkonians were offered a “once in a lifetime chance” to walk under the River Lee as a charity walk organised by Douglas and Glanmire Rotary Clubs took place.
An article in the following Monday’s paper reported that thousands of families turned out on Saturday and Sunday to support the ‘Lee Link Charity Walk’.
Speaking at the time, one of the walk’s organisers, Kevin Dwyer, of the Glanmire Rotary Club, explained that a visit from a New Zealander had given them the idea for the event.
“A man from Wellington who was involved in a Rotary Club told me about a project they organised to help raise funds there.
“A new art gallery was being opened in the city and the public were invited to get a sneak preview.
“They paid for the privilege and the event proved a tremendous success.
“We decided that a similar event to coincide with the opening of the Jack Lynch Tunnel would prove very popular. There was a super family atmosphere here this weekend,” he said.
The charity events raised money for a number of organisations, including Douglas and Glanmire Rotary Clubs and the Guide Dogs.