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We’ve run out of road with government excuses

March 24th, 2024 10:35 AM

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IT’S rare that you find local politicians, householders, civil servants, and the media all on the same side of a debate.

And yet that’s the situation when it comes to the paltry funding for West Cork’s roads,  a story that, much like the dilapidated surfaces themselves, just seems to rumble on and on.

A meeting of the West Cork Municipal District earlier this month was told that what the Council has been allocated, under the roads restoration improvement programme, covers just 2% of the road network in the WCMD area. The engineer told councillors that the lack of funding overall means that it would be 50 years before any given road in the county could be resurfaced.

Indeed resurfacing Skibbereen’s main thoroughfare alone would use up the complete roads budget for the year, he said.

That news came as a patch of road previously described as resembling a lunar landscape – on the main route into Skibbereen, where tourists get their first impressions of the town ¬– was partially repaired earlier this month after years of pleading.

West Cork is the gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way, the great success story of Irish tourism over the past decade. Tourists will struggle to get too far along that wild route given the state of some our roadways.

Cork County Council chief executive Valerie O’Sullivan said calls for increased funding have fallen on deaf ears with government. ‘We are scratching our heads here and it beggars belief. Is logic prevailing at all? We don’t know how the money is allocated and it seems to be random,’ she told councillors.

The dreadful, and indeed deteriorating, state of West Cork’s roads is now an issue that is a serious barrier for businesses in West Cork.

Indeed council chief executive O’Sullivan spelled out the seriousness of the issue saying the funding for the region ‘indicates a complete lack of lateral thinking and joined-up thinking and lack of understanding of Cork’s role into the future’.

It’s increasingly clear that this is now a serious threat to the economic development of West Cork. Without proper access, we are at a clear disadvantage.

The Council chief executive said that when government ministers are pressed on the funding anomaly, they point fingers at their colleague in the Dept of Transport, Eamon Ryan.

Whether Minister Ryan is the one who is blocking funding, or whether he is an easy patsy man for those same government ministers to deflect attention isn’t clear. But what is clear is the situation can’t continue, and there’s no more room for excuses.

This summer, voters will go to the polls in West Cork and decide their next local councillors and their next European members of parliament. In the next 12 months, we will also have a general election. Next month we will have a new Taoiseach. The government has fair warning that the time for excuses has expired.

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