AND now for Cllr Joe Carroll’s Third Epistle to the Skibbereenians, which is entitled ‘Key Infrastructural Projects Vital for Sustaining and Increasing the Population in West Cork.’ Whaaa?
As everyone knows, Joe (no, not the waffler on the wireless) is the FF Cathaoirleach of Cork County Council’s West Cork Municipal District. For five years he has represented Cork County Council as a Member of the Southern Regional Assembly since its establishment in 2014.
Once a Skibbereen town councillor, he quickly climbed the greasy pole and became a member of Cork County Council where he served a term as Deputy Mayor. But, during that time the popular politico had a noble aspiration: that of expanding the population of West Cork!
Naturally, he didn’t mean giving a bump to the fertility rate. Of course not!
He was referring to the correct type of ‘connectivity’ between one place and another which would lead to more jobs in West Cork. And, of course, over time, more jobs would contribute to a larger population.
At present the region is suffering from crumbling roads that are a serious deterrent to business and to families moving in (For instance, Ahiohill, near Clonakilty, complains that it is losing out on the Wild Atlantic Way because the roads are in such a terrible condition).
Cllr Joe wants a proper communications infrastructure for West Cork and he doesn’t mean highways, expressways and an occasional autobahn, or two. In simple terms, he wants a road system from Mizen Head to Macroom that a person can travel in safety and comfort.
Cork County Council estimates that over €560m is needed to bring West Cork roads to a proper standard. In 2008 the council got €65m for road maintenance but by 2018 this had shrivelled to just €36m, before increasing to €50m this year – all of which prompted Joe to propose that a cross-party delegation should be sent directly to Taoiseach Vlad asking him to sort out the problem.
Interestingly, in the Southern Regional Assembly’s ‘national blueprint’ for roads, the main artery serving the fishing industry – from Bandon, through Dunmanway and onto Bantry – would be significantly upgraded. Also pinpointed for upgrading is the Cork to Glengarriff section and the R572 that links Castletownbere with the N71.
Oh, and lest we forget, there’s good news too for Skibbereen and Bantry. Plans for relief roads in these towns have been tucked into the bureaucratic basket to be extracted at an appropriate (political?) moment.
Cllr Joe (the only West Cork member of the Southern Regional Assembly) is insistent that the death-trap corridors that people daily have to traverse every day will be up-graded. As well, investment is promised for the regeneration of town centres.
So, with a sense of anticipated joy, and breathless as a bride, we’re dreaming of the day when we no longer associate West Cork with potholes and burst tyres! That said, perhaps we too need a dose of reality and should appreciate the response of the Wise Man of Dinty’s who, when informed of the great road plans for West Cork, spluttered into his pint and said: ‘Oh yeah, when pigs fly!’
Sometimes one wonders what sort of influence, if any, local politicos have on government decision-making. Staring us in the face is the utter failure of Vlad’s government to sort out the completion date for the Dunkettle Interchange Project. Yet the local lads have no comment to make on the debacle.
Latest news is that re-tendering of the construction phase has pushed back the project to 2023, 2024, or later, even though more than 100,000 cars daily use the Dunkettle junction.
For drivers it’s more misery, congestion, longer trip times, increased queueing, traffic jams, snarl-ups, driver frustration and road rage. Cork Chamber boss Conor Healy described the delay as ‘completely unacceptable,’ warning there also would be delays in other ‘strategic infrastructure projects in the region.’
He said ‘serious questions’ needed to be asked concerning the estimating process for the National Development Plan and ominously warned that Business in Cork was ‘losing faith in the ability of the government to deliver.’
Mr Healy might have had more success with his criticism had he included a swipe at Shane Ross, the less-than-effective Minister for Transport whose brief is to implement a transport policy that overcomes delays, bottlenecks and congestion.
It’s possible that Ross’s disinterest in Cork can be attributed to the fact that Dunkettle is not in Dublin, far from his constituency and is not a populist bandwagon that he can climb onto. Indeed, Leesiders are convinced that he might not be aware of the Real Capital’s existence!
But, despite his faults, we have to admit that Ross has ministerial accounting habits that are a model of economic precision. For instance, he recently claimed expenses for 36 coffee mornings that each cost between €5 and €42.50. We, the Plain People of Ireland, paid for them!
Good times again!
It was cheers all round as turnover for the ports of Cork and Bantry reached €35.4m, up from 2017 by almost four million smackers. Better still, the seven Port directors agreed a dividend payment of €250,000 in respect of the 2018 financial year.
Last year the Port attracted 93 cruise ships, most of which berthed in Cobh. Interestingly, not everyone is happy with the situation and some critics are beginning to focus attention on the environmental and health impact that the visits of so many liners are having on the seaside town.
Meanwhile, residents of Rathcoursey and East Ferry, near Midleton, are currently waging a David and Goliah style battle against the conglomerate Dairygold Co-Operative Society and a Norwegian dairy subsidiary, TINE. They’re opposing Dairygold’s construction of a pipeline to carry annually four million litres of industrial fats, oil and grease from a new cheese processing plant at Mogeely. The plan is to pump the waste to Cork Harbour, where it will drop into the tide.
Dairygold has yet to obtain an EPA licence to discharge the gunge but, according to the company, it’s normal practice to undertake construction on foot of planning approval while at the same time applying for an operational licence.
Locals claim the company hasn’t a clue about the harbour and that ebbing tides will not quickly wash the stuff out to sea. A comment from a protest organiser, Debbie Hayes, was recently quoted in a local newspaper: ‘There is absolutely no way it will be carried out of the harbour within weeks, let alone a day. We live here; we know that. If Dairygold had consulted properly, they might know it too.’