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‘Boom back’ for roads funding in East Clare

A KILLALOE area councillor has welcomed the return to “the era of Bertie Ahern” in terms of spending on roads in Clare, following a significant increase in funds for the 2021 Schedule of Municipal District Works. At last week’s meeting of the Killaloe Municipal District, Senior Engineer John Leahy outlined how a total of €5.6m will be spent on roads in the area and noted an increase of 15% on the figure for 2020. An additional €4m will go towards the Killaloe bypass and crossing project. After Mr Leahy unveiled the total budget of €34.5m for Clare, €28m of which will go on the existing roads network, the senior engineer noted that for this was the first time the total annual allocation had significantly increased on the figure for 2008. “We had €31m at that time,” he said. “2008 was the end of the Celtic Tiger and the last time we had substantial grant funding, so we take that as our baseline. 2021 has significantly surpassed 2008 and that’s a very positive step. We are still playing catch-up in some places due to the under-spend in previous years.”

Proposing the adoption of the schedule, Councillor Alan O’Callaghan said, “People can be critical of Bertie Ahern, but it’s good to be going back to the era of Bertie Ahern in terms of the roadworks programme”. The Fianna Fáil member noted the increase in funding for several categories of works.

Mr Leahy outlined how €25.266m has been allocated to Clare by The Department of Transport and €5.3 from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII). The €3.2m allocation from the council’s own resources, he noted was slightly down on previous years. In terms of the department’s allocation, €28m will go towards the existing network, with €2m to Blake’s Corner, half-a-million to the N19 in Shannon, in addition to the allocation for the Killaloe bypass. The Restoration Maintenance Grant (€3.2m) and the Restoration Improvement Grant (€11.2m) have each increased by around 7%.

Within the Killaloe Municipal District, The Restoration Improvement Grant of €2.8m is up 7%, while the fund for surface dressing has increased to €780,000. In terms of discretionary grants, the fund of €170,000 no longer covers footpaths, councillors were told. A fund of €160,000 from the IPB, which provides insurance cover to local authorities and other public bodies. Mr Leahy noted that 15 bridges in the Killaloe district, out of a total of 30 county-wide, will have works carried out by the council’s Roads Design Section. Safety projects will be undertaken in Feakle, O’Brienbridge and Broadford and a Specific Improvement Grant of €100,000 will go to Henchey’s Cross.

Mr Leahy also noted that boundary changes to the Killaloe district had reduced its size and the length of the roads network by around 25%.

Councillor Joe Cooney welcomed the funding increase for 2021 and thanked Mr Leahy and the local staff. “The road network will be a lot better by the end of 2021,” he said. The Fine Gael member asked about funding for the Community Improvement Scheme (CIS) and Local Improvement Scheme (LIS) this year and also highlighted concerns over the level of money available for footpaths and drainage.

In response, Mr Leahy noted that the allocation for the CIS would only allow one scheme in each municipal district this year. He noted that the LIS is now funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development. “There has been no allocation yet,” he said. “We received €480,000 in 2020 and are confident it will remain the same for this year. Last year’s list is cleared and we had a secondary list of projects that will go for funding this year.”

The senior engineer also explained that the fund from IPB is allocated with a view to improving paths and reducing the claims made against local authorities. He agreed the lack of an increase in the allocation for drainage was disappointing, but pointed out that the overall programme is bigger than last year’s.

Councillor Pat Burke said that he was “overall, very happy” with the increase in funding, but very disappointed to see the road at Carrowena in Ogonnelloe had not received an allocation. “There have been several representations made to councillors including myself,” he said. “We’re working with landowners to try to find a solution. I would make an appeal for it to be put on the list for next year. Residents there have a lot to deal with, the road is in dreadful condition.” The Fine Gael member also voiced annoyance at the level of funding for the Henchey’s Cross junction.

Councillor Tony O’Brien thanked Mr Leahy and said that “even if the budget had doubled, some roads would still be left out”. He said that an allocation of €30,000 for safety improvement works at the junction of O’Briensbridge and Bridgetown was very welcome but might not go far enough. “The junction gets a huge volume of traffic day and night because it’s on the Killaloe to Limerick route. There’s an amenity park there too which is a huge attraction. The junction is an accident waiting to happen and I really hope it’s not just a stop-gap job. €30,000 might do the full job, but I doubt it. I hope I’m proven wrong.”

Mr Leahy said he accepted Councillor O’Brien’s point and would go back to the department if necessary. “They are usually amenable,” he said.

Cathaoirleach, Councillor Pat Hayes thanked Mr Leahy and the district staff for their “excellent work”. He welcomed the funding for the Killaloe bypass but expressed concerns about the lack of funding for drainage and for projects like Henchey’s Cross.

Mr Leahy noted that total funding streams will contribute in excess of €10m for the Killaloe bypass, which Councillor O’Brien described as “a huge boost for the entire East Clare region”.

The works schedule was approved after being proposed by Councillor O’Callaghan and seconded by Councillor Cooney.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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