By BRIAN MOORE
TRANSPORT Minister Shane Ross will visit West Cork within six months to see promised progress on the N71, he told a delegation last Wednesday.
However, a war of words has broken out between Deputy Michael Collins (Ind) and the committee members of Cork County Council’s Municipal District of West Cork over the delegation.
Deputy Collins had arranged for the deputation to meet with Minister Ross to discuss West Cork’s road network, especially the N71 and the R582.
However, the plan seems to have taken most of the members of the West Cork area by surprise, as it seems only one councillor was contacted in connection with the meeting.
Municipal District chairman Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) told a meeting in Bantry last week that he was shocked and stunned by the ‘lack of communication and courtesy’ shown by Deputy Collins to the councillors of the Municipal District.
‘I was not contacted or asked to attend this meeting with the Minister and, as chairman of the Municipal District committee, I should have been told about this deputation,’ Cllr Hurley said. Only one councillor present in Bantry – Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) – said he had received a phone call from Deputy Collins in connection with the deputation.
Cllr Mary Hegarty (FG) said that she was also not informed about the meeting, either. ‘As chairperson of the Western Division of Cork County Council, I am surprised to have heard about this meeting from the local media. I received no invite or phone call from Deputy Collins to take part in this deputation,’ Cllr Hegarty said.
Speaking with The Southern Star, Deputy Collins said that he did not want to make a ‘political football’ out of it.
‘I sent a request for a meeting with Minister Shane Ross some time back to discuss the N71 and R586 roads in West Cork,’ he explained. ‘I had thought my request had fallen on deaf ears, but on Friday (Jan 6th), out of the blue, the Minister agreed to a meeting with a deputation from West Cork the following Wednesday,’ Deputy Collins said. ‘However, it appears this has caused excitement amongst some of the councillors who feel hurt at being left out. I wanted to bring cross-party and independents from the West Cork and Bandon municipal area, but could not bring them all. I did want all us politicians working together for the greater good of West Cork on such an important issue,’ Deputy Collins continued.
‘I invited both my fellow TDs in West Cork and called Cllr James O’Donovan (FG) to either come himself or, if not, any other FG councillor who would be able to attend. I contacted Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) requesting him to speak to his colleagues, and I phoned Cllr Paul Hayes (SF). I also spoke to Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) to invite the other independent councillors. I am sorry to hear councillors expressing disappointment that they were not invited,’ he said.
‘Indeed,’ he added, ‘Cllr Declan Hurley is one of these whose memory is very short. Only a couple of months ago I, as vice-chairman of the Rural Affairs Committee in the Dáil, was one of three TDS nationwide to have their Councils make a presentation on all that’s good in West Cork before the Rural Affairs Committee, which has been working on a report on a sustainable rural Ireland. Cllr Hurley made the decision – without consulting all of his fellow councillors – that they did not have enough time to prepare to address the committee and so refused to come to Dublin. Needless to say, the other two local authorities turned up and were warmly received. I also issued an invitation in 2016 to both the West Cork and Bandon municipal districts to meet with their elected Oireachtas members, at least once every three months. As of yet, I have had no reply,’ he said.
‘This is a very critical time for West Cork, and we need all politicians working together focused for the greater good of our people, not point scoring at a major cost to the people of West Cork,’ Deputy Collins concluded.
Paul Moran, regional manager with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), and Ray O’Leary, assistant secretary to the Minister (roads and finance) also attended the meeting on Wednesday.
It also included Cllr Joe Carroll (FF), Cllr James O’Donovan (FG), Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) and Cllr Danny Collins (Ind). ‘We have put West Cork back on the T11’s radar and have made the Minister aware that additional funding for road works is urgently needed,’ said Dep Collins.
The delegates highlighted three main issues: the N71 from Bandon to Ballydehob; the R586 from Ballineen to Bantry; and the R585 from Kealkil to Copeen.
They said motorists are in constant danger at ‘chip van corner’ between Bandon and Innishannon. They also emphasised the need for a by-pass for Innishannon and called for the completion of the Bandon by-pass.
Dep Collins welcomed the fact that the TII have agreed to spend €1.5m at an area known as Newmills, which has been the cause of a number of fatalities, and he confirmed that Minister Ross has agreed to visit West Cork within the next six months to see ‘first hand what improvements have been made.’