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Rural Clare residents being discriminated against

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Clare’s five members of the Oireachtas are failing the county with their inability to tackle matters that matter to rural parts of the county according to Cllr PJ Kelly.

He expressed the views in an ensuing discussion following a motion from Cllr Pat Hayes. At the June meeting of Clare County Council, Hayes sought the local authority to “immediately put in place a priority list for our secondary and tertiary roads and that a long term strategy be put in place to deal with this. Under our recently adopted road programme it is clearly evident the there is a total lack of funding being spent on these roads and is now having a major effect the quality of rural living.”

“In the autumn of 2018 it is the intention of the Transportation Section to put in place a three year road improvement programme to cover the years 2019, 2020 & 2021. This works programme will include proposals for improvements to local secondary and tertiary roads. The indications are that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport will request such a programme by the end of the year as this will be needed for future funding allocations”, replied John Leahy, Senior Engineer with the Council’s Transport Department.

Hayes thanked Leahy for the reply but outlined his disappointment with the new system where there is no annual meeting focused solely on roads. “We need to tackle this issue as a county, something serious has to be done against this issue, it is discrimination against people living in rural areas”.

He continued, “People really get hurt when they see motorways being cut and groomed and roads in rural areas not being looked after”. He feels there is a “total neglect in terms of funding”, “we need to make a statement going forward with future budgets”.

Cllr PJ Kelly noted “there is a lot of noise, protocols and PR announcements about rural environments in Clare”. He underlined that the problem exists with funding coming from Dublin. “Our five Oireachtas members are equally to blame regardless of being in opposition or not, they are failing to highlight the issue. None of them have highlighted the further decline. They are responsible but we are taking it on the chin”. He wants to see the five men called into the chamber, “tell them it will be an election issue and they can take it or leave it”.

According to Cllr Johnny Flynn the economic collapse led to “a decade of lack of funding to roads”. Grass is growing up the middle of the road leading to the old Ennis Town Council building he revealed. Since the abolition of the Town Council, Flynn estimates that “we’re down millions in funding”.

Hayes was praised by both Cllr Christy Curtin and Cllr Michael Hillery for putting forward the motion. Curtain maintained that the whole issue revolves around “under-funding” and that roads in his municipal district of West Clare have been thirty years without reconstruction. “Tar has disintegrated from roads because they haven’t been done for thirty years”, Hillery stated.

John Leahy informed the councillors that “the whole idea of the three year programme is it gives us an indication of what is happening”. He revealed that the levels of surface dressing grant brought up Cllr Curtin are 42% less than they were in 2008.

“Surface dressing is what it’s called surface dressing because it’s covering up the cracks”, replied Cllr Hayes. He backed Cllr Kelly’s suggestion to bring members of the Oireachtas before the elected members, “there needs to be a sea change within the Council”, he concluded.

A written request is to be sent to Timmy Dooley, Michael Harty, Pat Breen, Joe Carey and Martin Conway that they address the Council regarding the lack of road funding.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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