AFTER so many false dawns over the years, which have run into decades, the announcement that Macroom is to get its long-sought bypass is great news for the Mid Cork town, which has suffered so much from traffic gridlock. It will be good for the economy of the town and, more importantly, the environment and the quality of life of its residents.
Even though it was one of the towns that needed one the most, Macroom has been very late getting its bypass work approved. It will soon enjoy what a lot of other towns which were gridlocked in the past have been for several years.
Older readers will remember the queues of traffic that other town in Co Cork suffered before they got their bypasses, such as Mallow on the route from Cork to Limerick, Fermoy and Mitchelstown en route to Dublin and Midleton and Youghal on the road to Waterford – all of which have prospered since traffic, especially heavy goods vehicles, was diverted around them.
It has taken a huge amount of lobbying, some frustrating objections and several false dawns over many decades to get the 22km bypass route around Macroom, which will extend past the villages of Baile Mhic Íre and Baile Bhuirne also before finishing west of the latter, not far from the county bounds with Kerry, approved.
Politically, it has been a hot potato and approval of the €280million bypass route could not have come at a better time for Macroom-based Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine, Michael Creed, TD. In recent months, he has been under pressure in his ministerial job from beef farmers protesting over poor prices for their produce – some of the most vocal of them in his own Cork North West constituency.
It is said that all politics is local and, if Minister Creed was not seen to be looking after his own constituency, especially on the bypass issue, then it would seriously damage his chances of re-election at the next general election, which we can expect in the first half of 2020. Mr Creed knows what it is like to have lost his Dáil seat, as it happened him in 2002, although since he regained it in 2007, he has held on to it at every subsequent general election.
He knows also that the fact that one is a member of the Cabinet does not guarantee re-election, as many ministers found out to their cost in the attritional general election of 2011. The contractors for the Macroom bypass will probably have been on site for a few months before next year’s general election is called and, even though it is a three and half-year project, the fact that the work is under way should provide a boost for Michael Creed’s electoral prospects as this was one of the biggest issues on the southern end of the Cork North West constituency where his main power base lies.
Recalling that when he grew up in the town years ago, people lived on Main Street and on New Street, but those streets had been ‘shelled out’ as a result of the heavy traffic. Mr Creed said that ‘there is a real possibility of the centre of Macroom becoming a living town again and that has to be one of the great benefits as well as the quality of life for people who use the town with heavy traffic being removed.’
With more freedom of movement around the town in prospect, people in its hinterland – who heretofore might have preferred to do their business in Cork or Killarney – will have a greater incentive to stop and shop in Macroom without fear of being snarled up in heavy traffic. While there, they might have a coffee or support some other local businesses, giving a possible further jobs boost to the town.
The environmental impact of a dramatic reduction of traffic cannot be underestimated either, with much less in the way of carbon emissions from idling petrol and diesel engines, which should benefit local residents’ health and wellbeing. Macroom is lucky to have a very active Tidy Towns committee who will have scope to take on even more beneficial environmental projects going forward.
The Macroom bypass will see opportunity knock for the town and local business and community organisations need to be geared up to take full advantage of this so that the town can be rejuvenated going into the third decade of the 21st century.