OPINION:Trying to bridge a dangerous gap

April 4th, 2016 12:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Share this article

€10.8m will be needed to repair the 382 bridges that  have serious structural problems in County Cork

HERE’S a good one: Although Cork County Council is not burning bridges, neither is it building bridges (Warning to readers: dreadful puns ahead).

Of County Cork’s 1,455 bridges it’s possible that 382 won’t be standing for long more. At present they’re in the process of crumbling into rivers and on to roads. 

Last January, Cllr Anthony Barry managed to extract the following bit of information from Council officials:  a quarter of all bridges in County Cork are in a sub-standard condition and, alarmingly, at least 30 are in ‘danger of total failure,’ which ominously sounds like bureaucratic word-play for complete collapse.

However, officials also said there was no question of traffic being allowed to cross any bridge considered to be unsafe. Which is pretty reassuring in circumstances where the Council is trying to bridge a dangerous gap!  Or is it?

Because we can’t say with certainty that the Council will do the right thing when faced with a bridge-too-far situation!  For instance, in the case of Slatty’s Bridge, near Fota Golf Club in East Cork, Cllr Barry took a dekko at the 18th century structure. To his horror, he discovered the bloody thing was sinking into the river.

‘The road (on the bridge) is giving way, meaning something is dropping underneath.  In the last 12 months the situation has deteriorated seriously. The bridge has become porous and now salt water is seeping in from the tidal estuary,’ he told De Paper.

And that’s kinda serious, considering that access to the great conurbation that is Cobh depends almost entirely on Slatty’s Bridge.  The only other ways in and out of the town consist of a cross-river ferry from Monkstown, the railway, or a dirt track via Carrigtwohill. If Slatty’s Bridge goes the way of all flesh, then Cobh is in serious trouble.  

To be fair to Council officials, it’s a fact that more than €10.8m will be needed to repair the 382 bridges that have serious structural problems in County Cork, and that last year the total amount provided by the stingy, tight-fisted FG-Labour Coalition amounted to €7.7m – and that was for the maintenance of bridges on non-national roads across the entire country!  

Nonetheless, perhaps the time has come for less of the statistical gobbledegook that Council officials have been spouting recently in an effort to play down the possibility of County Cork bridges caving in like punctured concertinas?  Instead, what’s required from the mandarins inhabiting the ethereal regions of County Hall is assurance that our bridges, many of which are very old, are actually safe to drive across!


Divided by water

Does anyone experience a sense of mortification at the way our recently-elected wretches are horse-trading the future of this great nation?

After the penny dropped for Fianna Fáil and Blueshirts that water charges was the issue through which the plain people of Ireland expressed personal and political hurt, the Soldiers of Destiny cynically turned the controversy into an indicator as to whether they would go into or stay out of a FG-led Coalition.

Of course, their concern about water charges is a sham. Some people see Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael performing a Leinster House version of the Hokey Pokey: ‘you put the right foot in and take the left foot out; you put it in again and you shake it all about.’   But, to be precise, their steps and gestures resemble a sort of choreographed slam-dance rather than the ‘Hokey Pokey’ – something to disguise the fact that a deal already has been done in principle. The point at issue now is who gets what! 

Which unfortunately led to an over-hasty wreport on March 18th that Mickey and his butties would ‘chase’ the ‘dodgers’ who refuse to pay their water bills. ‘You can’t have one half of the country paying, and the other half refusing,’ an unnamed senior FF party source pompously told the meeja, much to Inda’s joy.  What’s more, ‘dodgers’ would be pursued by means of attachment orders for bills up to €5,000.  

But, lest we forget, a week earlier FF was claiming water charges were a red line issue that could not be ignored in any negotiations leading to the formation of a government. To the intense annoyance of Mickey’s pro-coalition chums, the rank and file forcefully reminded their boss that water charges had to remain a ‘red line issue’ at all costs.

Quickly, the Corkman reiterated the party pledge to abolish Irish Water, which in turn prompted Dame Inda to let it be known that, if FF continued with such a bolshie attitude, he’d definitely take the country into another election.

The Blueshirts then offered a new deal. If Mickey rowed back on his plan to scrap water charges (for the umpteenth time), Dame Inda would abandon his plan to scrap the Universal Social Charge (Fianna Fail’s proposal was to scrap the tax on incomes of up to €80,000).  An area of compromise was found and joy spread everywhere.


Tight-lipped politico

That aside, the curious among us would like to know the opinion of the genius that got the country into this huge water charges mess. Cue Big Philly Hogan and his recent assessment of the crisis. It was short and snotty: ‘You can ask me all the questions you like about Irish Water, but I’m not going to answer anything,’

We gasped in wonder at the exhibition of old fashioned FG common sense, prudence and political sagacity, seasoned (it must be said) with a whiff of arrogance and the black arts!  After all, Big Philly was the geezer who warned “dodgers” that their water service would be cut magically “to a trickle” if they didn’t cough up the dough.


Leading lights

Fair dues to the people of Courtmacsherry who combatted rural isolation after the local sweet shop closed its doors last year.  Deprived of the railway, dance hall, cinema, petrol station and 17 shops that once gave the seaside place energy and vibrancy, the closure of the remaining emporium, Rita’s, was the last gasp.  It seemed civilisation, as we know it in the village, was doomed.

But in a remarkable display of community spirit, Courtmac’s 500 residents agreed to establish a community shop that would be provisioned, run and managed by locals.  Community leader Dara Gannon explained to the press that local people purchased shares in the venture, and that the new retail amenity would open its doors at the beginning of June.

Sinn Fein councillor Paul Hayes told this newspaper that the Plunkett Foundation, which established 300 similar shops throughout the UK, was the inspiration for the project.  

So, well done, everyone. Once more residents and visitors will be able to purchase the basics of life such as milk, bread, tea, cold meat, liquorice allsorts and the immensely-popular Southern Star.

Share this article