*Helga Himmelsbach. Photograph: John Mangan

NORTH CLARE locals blocked off access to Ballyvaughan for under half an hour for the second time in the space of a week as part of their efforts to seek better road conditions.

A campaign has been launched following the death of Lisdoonvarna’s Jerry O’Connor (72) at the end of July with his wife Helga Himmelsbach leading the charge to bring about safer conditions for the people of North Clare and visitors to the area.

Music was played by Eugene Lambe following the conclusion of the demonstration at the location where Jerry was killed after he was hit by a French tourist driving on the wrong side of the road.

Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF), Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG), Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) and Shannon based Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) attended Thursday morning’s demonstration.

Speaking this week, Helga stressed, “it is time things change. I will get things moving, I will not have let Jerry die in vain, Jerry died to highlight this, this is a death sentence, we have to travel here for work, we don’t travel at speed in this Irish disneyland, we want to live our lives with meaning and dignity. How many people will need to did in this senseless manner before something will happen”.

She questioned the politicians on how they were representing the people that elected them. “The buses bringing the tourists here are not leaving a penny, the people walking and cycling here contribute more than ten buses. What can we do so more people are not shattered to bits”.

Deputy Crowe admitted improvements won’t happen within the space of a week. “A whole range of measures have to happen,” he acknowledged while describing the current situation as “insufficient”. “The Council have come to up with a safety plan, road design has to happen, the road signage can happen sooner,” he stated. Crowe referenced advertisements on RTÉ from families who have lost loved ones on Irish roads but added, “we can’t have mitigations for the idiocy of some drivers”.

Responding to this, Helga stated, “people driving on the wrong side of the road is not a single occurrence, it happens 100 times a day,” she claimed. “It just happened on a blind bend so Jerry couldn’t see it”.

Inagh based Giselle Harvey admitted on two occasions travelling to Ballyvaughan that morning buses had encroached on the wrong side of the road.

Plans are in place for a mobility strategy to assess the speed limit in North Clare, Cllr Killeen advised. “We are working on it and I know it is too late in this instance,” he sympathised. With his work on a family farm in Fanore, he said he was well aware of “how dangerous” the roads are in Ballyvaughan and surrounding areas, “we are determined to get something done”.

Fanore woman Sheila O’Driscoll referenced previous comments from Deputy Crowe that funding for North Clare could not be waved like a magic wand. “The county engineer needs to be held accountable, there is barely a road marking visible from Fanore to Ballyvaughan but there is coach after coach”.

Sheila contacted Kerry TD, Michael Healy-Rae (IND) to obtain further information on the one-way system for coaches there, “he said it was an unofficial agreement and that people of Kerry are making it work”.

Neon lights are needed in North Clare to slow down traffic for the six months of high season, she argued. “The cash cow is the Cliffs of Moher, this needs to be fast tracked and immediately. 101 people have died on our roads before Jerry, you’re not going to hide from us, Jerry is the eighth person to die on North Clare roads recently”. Sheila urged the politicians to act, “unless you do it more people will die. This woman hasn’t had time to grieve, it’s not good enough, the people of North Clare have had enough. How many more people will have to die”.

Lisdoonvarna based Cllr Garrihy said the North Clare councillors will not be found wanting. “This is about focus, solutions have laid out. Thirty detailed submissions were made to the Cliffs of Moher strategy which have been completely ignored. We’re a home to local communities. Our experience is that it is so far down a priority list, it is not good enough”.

Support must begin to emanate from Clare’s Oireachtas members, Cllr Garrihy maintained. “there are actions taken and small wins that can be got, it is about communities supporting us. We have to do something, the local community involvement is needed to support the things we are calling for, it is not today or yesterday that mass tourism has been in North Clare. It is a lonesome voice talking when you see the Cliffs of Moher in national promotion but aside that has to be the safety of people living here, it is not a popular one and when we speak it is not welcome, we need our local community behind us, we are doing measures but sadly it is no good for Jerry”.

Helga told the gathering, “buses are ruining our quality of life, we don’t need bus tourism, we need quality numbers”. She continued, “the Burren is of outstanding beauty. Our communities are gorgeous, the people that want to live their lives here should be let. We don’t need buses or fast track tourism or crazy drivers to come through here, we need quality. We want to feel safe in our community, we need a massive change to come into NC and beyond”.

A walk of remembrance for Jerry will be held on August 27th beginning at 3pm.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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