The 120-metre-high spire is to be built in O'Connell Street and will dominate the Dublin skyline. City fathers hope it will come to symbolise the Irish capital in the 21st century.
But as excavations began last week, the noise of drilling was accompanied by the grumbles of residents. Sceptical Dubliners referred to the new monument - designed by an English architect, Ian Ritchie - as "the spike". One local said: "It looks like a needle, which is unfortunate in the light of Dublin's heroin problem."
Nelson's Pillar was the focal point of O'Connell Street until it was demolished by an IRA bomb planted to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. Dubliners used to meet "at the pillar", and visitors climbed to a platform at the top.
Mr Ritchie's slender steel cone is to be the centrepiece of a regeneration project for the street, once Dublin's most fashionable thoroughfare, now blighted by crime, traffic fumes and fast-food outlets.
Dublin Corporation wants to transform it into a Parisian-style boulevard, complete with avenues of trees and pavement cafes. O'Connell Street will be Dublin's Champs-Elysees, so the theory goes, and the spire will be its Eiffel Tower.
The new monument was the winning entry in an international competition. It will be visible all over Dublin when it is erected at the end of this year to mark the new millennium.
But many residents are less than enthusiastic. Some wanted a figurative monument. Candidates suggested included Michael Collins, the Irish nationalist leader, and the author James Joyce. Others favoured a religious theme, such as a statue of St Patrick.
"It will be an eyesore," pronounced one woman, surveying a model of the spire last week. "It's too cold; it's soulless," said a bearded young man.
However, Tony Duggan, the senior architect with Dublin Corporation, disagreed. "It was felt to be a symbol of a modern Ireland, a very strong image, a beacon for the city, a clear statement of the confidence that Ireland has at the end of the 20th century," he said.Reuse content