Peregrine Falcons Visit Moyross

Peregrine Falcons Visit Moyross, 2010

Sean Lynch

Sinopale 3, “Hidden Memories, Lost Traces”
Curator: ?

The Moyross estate was developed as a social housing project between 1973 and 1987 on the edge of Limerick City, Ireland, comprising 1,160 houses divided into twelve individual parks. Little civic infrastructure was initially provided for inhabitants. Although the population has decreased in recent years, it still stands in excess of 3,600 people. In 2008, Limerick City Council announced a regeneration vision and plan, intending to demolish the entire estate and rebuild it on a smaller scale by 2018. Large green areas and high partition walls between each park will eventually disappear – places that the City Council consider partially responsible for the socially disenfranchised character of the area. With the economic downturn, this major regeneration programme has aroused much controversy, and has yet to begin in earnest.

In recent years, various gun-related incidents in Moyross have gained much attention in the Irish media. The archetypical view generated is of a troubled place, with images of boardedup doorways of derelict houses reproduced frequently in local and national newspapers, portraying and definitively identifying the area as ‘down and out.’ This journalistic impulse has created a haze of oversimplification, damaging any understanding of the community and physical infrastructure to the casual outsider.

With this issue in mind, an attempt was made to generate a different kind of visuality of the area. In 2008, three specially trained peregrine falcons were introduced to Moyross.* These birds, the fastest creatures in the world, were specifically chosen for their capable ability and confidence to fly around urban areas. They were once populous in Ireland, before the use of pesticides in the 1960s made them an endangered species.** Residents met the birds at the local community centre, in school, and in the streets, alleyways and garden areas. Understanding that the falcons are birds of prey and often attack racing pigeons, a special timetable for the skies was agreed with local racing pigeon-owners.*** Then, the falcons took off, with miniature video cameras attached to their bodies. Their free flights act as a phenomenological recording of the complexity of a place about to potentially disappear under the failed agendas of urban planning. Afterwards, copies of the resulting DVD were distributed freely around the neighbourhood.

Projected DVD, colour, no sound, 3’

* To peregrine means to travel through or over, and to journey from place to place.

** DDT insecticides, formerly used in agriculture, were poisonous to both the falcons and their eggs. At a low point, an Irish Wildlife Conservancy report recorded only sixteen pairs of peregrine falcons that bred in Ireland in 1969. With the banning of harmful chemicals and more general awareness of the bird, the peregrine is no longer endangered but still a threatened species on the island.

*** Previously, two peregrine falcons were resident throughout the 1990s in the spire of St John’s Cathedral in Limerick, the highest church steeple in Ireland. By 1999 they had successfully bred two chicks. While these birds were generally popular in the neighbourhood, members of the local Saint Mary’s racing pigeon club claimed the falcons were killing as many