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Sandbags used for gritting in Westbury

Sandbags could become a must-have household accessory in South-East Clare judging by their versatility in dealing with different weather extremes in recent weeks.
They proved to be vital in the successful battle to keep rising flood water out of homes in Shannon Banks when the Shannon burst its banks last November and were also used to ensure that no house was flooded in nearby Westbury.
Once the water subsided, very few people realised that they would come in handy for another purpose a few weeks later – the gritting of paths and roads during the current big freeze.
Councillor Pascal Fitzgerald and local businessman Tony Hayes used sand from spare sandbags to grit the car park and areas around St Nicholas Church and Westbury to facilitate a safer passage for motorists and pedestrians who struggled to get to grips with icy patches.
Although the main parts of the Killaloe to Shannon Banks road was gritted, Councillor Fitzgerald said byroads didn’t receive any sand or grit, which made it extremely difficult for buses and larger vehicles to travel safely.
He proposed a large stockpile of sandbags or grit should be available in a number of key locations in South-East Clare for local residents.
“We are told that the last big freeze up was back in the 1960s. We must learn from what has happened. Some people in South-East Clare had difficulty getting out of their homes for a week.
“I drove on some of the roads in the area and it was scary, it was like an ice rink. Some of the main footpaths in Westbury are still frozen. The council used to grit the footpaths in Westbury a few years ago but that doesn’t seem to happen anymore.
“The National Roads Authority (NRA) also has a responsibility in this area. Who decides which roads are gritted? If the schools were open there would have been even more accidents.
“A number of cars hit ditches on some of the main routes because of the icy conditions. The Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, has stated that councils need to apply for more grit if they need it, yet his colleague, Minister Gormley, is cutting back on the funding for Clare County Council,” he said.
Motorists were advised to avoid the Broadford to Limerick road for a few days because it was so treacherous.
Meanwhile, Councillor Cathal Crowe has called on the council to develop a plan to deal with flooding and icy conditions.
He said that conditions in villages such as Clonlara, Meelick and Broadford were treacherous yet they weren’t included in the salting programme.
Likewise, the Sixmilebridge to Clonlara road back to Broadford and Tulla wasn’t gritted.
Councillor Crowe admitted that his own car suffered material damage when it spun out of control into the ditch on an icy stretch of road at Ballycar in Ardnacrusha on Christmas Eve.
He said that there were numerous instances where vehicles lost control and hit ditches in South-East Clare.
“I would like to commend council staff, who worked unsocial hours gritting roads in South-East Clare. However, I think a different approach will have to be taken by the council management when it comes to gritting. The council needs to show a lot more flexibility,” he said.

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