ANGER and shock has been expressed locally after Co Cork was given €400,000 to repair rural laneways, compared to €1.9m which was given to the constituency of the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys (FG).
That means that counties Monaghan and Cavan got more than four times as much money as Cork, which has the longest roads network in the entire country, and is also the largest county.
A total of 18% of the €10.5m fund went to Minister Humphreys’ constituency which prompted claims of ‘cronyism’ from local public representative Cllr Danny Collins (Ind).
However, the Department of Rural and Community Development said money allocated for the repair of rural laneways was allocated ‘fairly’ and that due to Covid-related delays to capital projects, the councils were only able to apply for works which they could deliver this year.
‘The allocations were based solely on the level of works local authorities themselves said they could deliver by the end of the year,’ a statement said. But there seems to be some confusion over the responsibility for these laneways as Cllr Collins said the statement raised an important question that has to be answered.
‘This seems to me that Cork County Council only applied for funds for work they could complete before the end of the year. I know the real problem here is the lack of outdoor staff and road crews within Cork County Council.
‘I, along with others, have long asked for a list of how many staff the Council has, because we can see that there is a major shortfall, with people retiring and no recruitment taking place.’
But on Wednesday, Cork County Council said the roads concerned were ‘not public roadways’. ‘These private lanes and roads do not fall under the responsibility of Cork County Council,’ it said.
However, it did confirm it had applied for the grant aid. ‘Cork County Council’s recent grant aid for these private laneways was for the amount sought from the Department’ and also added that ‘Cork County Council is adequately staffed to deal with projects, maintenance and management of the public road network and public amenity areas.’
Cllr Paul Hayes (Ind) said the Council’s engineers ‘are always telling us that they don’t have enough funds for these laneways. We have the longest coastline in the country and for people living on rural farms and houses, or for visitors getting to popular tourist spots, these funds are much-needed to improve access.’
The Department said it was absolutely satisfied that the correct procedures were followed in relation to the allocation of funding under the scheme.