THE proposal to adopt a variation to the County Development Plan to allow a controversial €120 million distributor road in South East Clare was passed by a majority of 17 to nine this Friday afternoon in a stormy and contentious meeting.
Concerned residents from Parteen and Clonlara packed the public gallery where they were joined by Deputy Willie O’Dea and Limerick City Councillor Michael Sheehan to hear the decision on the proposed Limerick Northern Distributor Route.
Cathaoirleach James Breen told the packed viewing space that because of the importance of the issue, he had relaxed the numbers limit to allow them all to attend. But he also warned the crowd if there was any comments, cheering, applause of heckling, the gallery would be cleared.
Councillor Cathal Crowe said he opposed the proposal before the meeting and said it was an absolute betrayal of the village of Parteen and asked if he could read out the proposal.
Councillor Breen refused this and asked the county secretary to read the motion for the meeting. He also refused permission sought by Councillor Crowe for people in the gallery – in view of the restrictions – living on the southern side of the proposed route, to be allowed to raise their hands.
Councillor Crowe then outlined his objections to the route and the impact on a number of families in the gallery whose homes, he claimed, “will be obliterated”.
He also highlighted the cases of a family whose house had burned down and were in the process of putting it back in order, a family who farm in the area and another family who, at the back of their house, is a flood plain on the Lower Shannon basin, which accommodates swans.
“They are talking about putting a road on stilts but you cannot put a road in this area and that will be borne out in time,” Councillor Crowe said, adding that the proposal is not a bypass of Parteen but goes right through the heart of the village.
He said the council could accommodate swans, beavers, the ESB and the University of Limerick but not the residents in the Council Chamber. “What have we done for them?” he asked.
Councillor Gerry Flynn said he was against the proposal primarily on economic grounds and noted that from 2010 to 2014, the taxpayer had paid €20 million to the loss-making Limerick Tunnel and that building this €120 million road would divert more traffic away from that and increase the burden on the taxpayer.
He claimed the proposed road would geographically reopen the boundary issue.
Councillor PJ Kelly said he opposed the route because it “lacks vision for the future” and only accommodates Limerick University. “It might be a view for the present but it’s not a vision for the future,” he said.
Councillor Michael Begley also opposed the motion and said, in his view, there is a better way and that all the alternatives have not been explored in any way, other than as part of a formal process “done by and large from a desktop” without addressing a lot of local issues.
The Cathaoirleach refused to allow any further debate and called for a vote. Two councillors, Ann Norton and Johnny Flynn, were absent from the Chamber, while voting in favour of the motion were Councillors James Breen, Pat Daly, Tom McNamara, Mary Howard, Paul Murphy, Clare Colleran Molloy, Pat Hayes, Tony O’Brien, Pat Burke, Alan O’Callaghan, Pat McMahon, Christy Curtin, Richard Nagle, Bill Slattery, Michael Hillery, Bill Chambers and Gabriel Keating.
Councillors Joe Cooney, Michael Begley, Cathal Crowe; John Crowe, Gerry Flynn, PJ Ryan, Mike McKee, Ian Lynch and PJ Kelly voted against the motion.
Cries of “shame on you” and boos rang out from the public gallery as the residents left the Chamber.