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Ballinrobe’s Christmas lights cause controversy

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Project will be phased over a number of years

Ciara Galvin

THE Christmas lights in Ballinrobe are a work in progress, according to local businessman Richard Burke.
Mr Burke, who co-ordinated this year’s lights for the town, told The Mayo News that the cost of replacing the lights that are ten years old, was up to €70,000.
Responding to some critics of this year’s lights, Mr Burke said the figure was ‘way too much for a small town’.
“Our lights were very dated, some of the lights were up to ten years old and we were getting to a stage of either repairing them or replacing them. It’s a lot more cost-effective to replace them. While our lights were very impressive for the last ten years, we probably over-ran ourselves,” he said.
Mr Burke highlighted that for a small town a figure of €70,000 could be put to better use than replacing Christmas lights, and said that it is hoped in the next two to three years more lights can be added.
He explained that the current lights cost a fifth of the price - and for health and safety issues they were the only logical option.  
“If we’re going back to a case of paying someone to put them up we’d be paying €10,000 for just putting them up and taking them down. We have to make it user friendly for the voluntary guys putting them up, this is all voluntary, but we’ve to think of health and safety too.”

Safer option
Last year a truck pulled down overhead Christmas lights, which was another reason to go for a safer option that is currently up.
“We could have had serious consequences only for the time that it happened. It’s all to try and make it easier, and more manageable and more affordable for the town.”
Speaking about critics of the lights, Burke said there will always be a degree of criticism.
“The people who are critical now were probably very critical of the money that was spent on the original lights but like everything they have a lifetime.”
More lights are to be introduced to the town on a phased basis over the next three to four years, with both sides of streets to be lit up.

Buy-in
Mr Burke said the Christmas lights project got great financial support from businesses.
“We didn’t collect money from people for the last two years. There’s people who pay direct debits but we didn’t go around collecting because we didn’t feel the lights were up to satisfactory levels.
Currently there are 36 businesses paying into the lights fund every month for the last ten years.
There are still more lights to be put up ahead of this Christmas and the tree in Cornmarket will soon be lit.
“If people come out and help us it might make it easier on everyone. A lot bigger towns like Kilkenny and Tullamore actually have the same lighting as we have now, they have no street crossings,” Mr Burke concluded.

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