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Disappointing tourism not linked to roads

April 21st, 2024 8:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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THIS week a local councillor has described the level of vitriol being directed at him by members of the public about the state of West Cork’s roads.

Skibbereen-based Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) said that he, and other colleagues, are being ‘eaten alive’ as they go about their canvass, seeking votes in the region.

The reaction is not new, or surprising – councillors have been appealing for more funding for local roads to Cork County Council and its local district area meetings for several years now.

It’s not that their calls have been falling on deaf ears – the Council’s various managers are largely in agreement with them, and in recent weeks the County Council’s interim chief executive Valerie O’Sullivan even said she was ‘blue in the face’ looking for funding for Cork’s roads.

The problem seems to be with the budgets being allocated to the local authority from the relevant civil service departments, and their lack of understanding of the geography and remoteness of West Cork roads.

Cork is not just the biggest county, but has a huge network of small rural roads in often difficult-to-access places, due to its large coastline.

The fact a large number of these roads are often seaside roads informs the type of wear and tear they experience – very unlike roads in the midlands or in some of our more populated counties – the vagaries of Atlantic weather mean that West Cork road surfaces are particularly vulnerable.

Increasing rainfall, the regularity of Atlantic storms, combined with rising temperatures all mean that our road surfaces are in the direct line of fire of climate change.

But there doesn’t seem to be any ‘joined-up thinking’ at central government level when it comes to allocating roads funding. The size of the roads network, rather than the current state of it, appears to command the most importance when deliberating on what funds a county is allocated.

But when the current stock of roads is already in a critical state, surely some element of restoration and repair should be included in the costings, before resurfacing monies are factored in.

Cllr Carroll estimates the roads of West Cork are, in some cases, in states of disrepair as bad as they were during the Famine, in the mid-1840s. And that’s hard to argue with when some of the approach roads to large towns are examined, never mind remote roads in corners of isolated peninsulas, or those on our windswept islands.

Driving around the region, one almost gets the impression the budget allocators assume nobody in this area strays beyond the county boundaries to witness how much higher the standard of road is in, for example, neighbouring Kerry, Waterford and Tipperary.

To say Cork is the ‘poor relation’ is an understatement.

Some main roads in this area have surfaces that would not look out of place in European cities currently being ravaged by war, such is the prevalence of massive potholes and the entire lack of a road surface.

We are about to launch a new summer season in one of the country’s most popular holiday destinations, and it is almost embarrassing to welcome visitors to this corner of Ireland when any welcome has to be tempered with warnings and cautions regarding driving on the region’s main routes and boreens.

It’s disappointing that West Cork’s importance as a tourism destination is not part of the conversation when road budgets are being debated at higher levels.

Cllr Carroll says he is being ‘eaten alive’ by potential voters when he canvasses them. But he blames the more senior politicians who, he says, are the ones with better access to those holding the purse strings.

While a general election is imminent, on either side of next Christmas, there have been very few canvassers on the ground for the main parties as yet. One would not envy them their task if the reception being extended to local politicians is any bellwether.

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