Fears over N5 project ‘genuine’, says councillor
AN independent councillor says he has genuine concerns about the future of the N5 project in Mayo due to cutbacks that have to be made to pay for the National Children’s Hospital in Dublin.
Tiernaur-based councillor Michael Holmes (pictured) has denied ‘being political’ by raising fears that the N5 Westport to Turlough upgrade ‘could be slipping’.
Cllr Holmes raised the issue at the monthly meeting of Mayo County Council, which took place yesterday (Monday). He expressed concern that the N5 could see ‘major cutbacks in funding’ to pay for the new National Children’s Hospital, which has an overspend estimated to be over €1.4 billion.
“That €1.4 billion has to be got somewhere, and I am concerned that maybe something like the big road projects in Mayo [will be scrapped], like the N5.”
He went on to say that he believes that the project ‘could be slipping’, and that it could be put on the long finger indefinitely. ‘We don’t want that to happen’, he said.
“We can’t afford to let it slip to the bottom of the pile again. I was concerned about it for a while, and I’m more concerned about it this last 24 hours. It is important we keep an eye on the ball,” Cllr Holmes told the meeting, which was held in the Ivy Tower Hotel in Castlebar.
The comments by Cllr Holmes were rejected by some Fine Gael councillors, with Cllr Gerry Coyle making assurances that there would be ‘no slippage on any projects in Mayo’. Cllr Coyle was supported by his colleague Cllr Cyril Burke, who said the sod will be turned on the project in the autumn.
“The N5 has gone out to tender, and that is due back in June, and the contractors are to be appointed in September or October. I cannot be any clearer than that,” Cllr Burke said, while accusing Cllr Holmes of sending out the wrong kind of message to employers and companies who might be considering a location in the county.
“We all know that Cllr Holmes has a black bag and he likes to pull out the odd thing every now and again. I know he has concerns about roads over the years, but it would be wrong for us to send out the wrong message here today. The road is going out to tender and we will be turning the sod in September or October.”
Cllr Holmes, who was chairman of the Western Roads Action Group in 2000, said he has been campaigning for the upgrade of the N5 for years, and he insisted that his comments were not politically motivated.
“For some reason there is a view I was pulling some stunt. Absolutely not. My concern is absolutely genuine … I have no hidden agenda … I am not pointing the finger at anybody or party. I want to make that quite clear, because I am seriously concerned about that project and any other project in the county or in the west.”
Peter Hynes, the Chief Executive of Mayo County Council said he was not aware of any plans to cut the N5 project to pay for the National Children’s Hospital.
“I can confirm that [the N5 project] is very high on the agenda of the TII and the Department [of Transport]. I would be hopeful that it is not something which that be affected or delayed because of the need to generate some savings,” he said.