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Senator begs Ross for new Ballina road

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STRONG CRITICISM Senator Michelle Mulherin had strong words for Minister Shane Ross, who is a Minister in the Government led by her party leader, Leo Varadkar.

Mulherin says Government is ‘crucifying’ Mayo’s economic growth

Anton McNulty

People in Co Mayo are being ‘crucified by by environmental designation’. That is according to Fine Gael senator Michelle Mulherin, who has called on Minister for Transport Shane Ross to endorse and prioritise a new road between Ballina and Castlebar in order to grow jobs. Senator Mulherin was also scathing about Minister Ross’s response, which she said was ‘standard-issue’, and she accused him of trying to ‘pass the buck’.
A proposed new road linking the N26 with the N5 has been on the back-burner since 2010, when An Bord Pleanála refused permission for stage two of the N26 road project due to environmental concerns.
During a debate in the Seanad last Thursday with Minister Ross, Senator Mulherin told him that a new road network linking Ballina and Castlebar was crucial to economic growth for the region. She said that multinational companies employ approximately 4,800 people in Mayo and that a new road is a priority for these companies.
“The project is a priority for multinational companies in the area. I have spoken to representatives of such companies and know that they would be happy to meet the Minister. They are trying to maintain their position and grow jobs, but they need infrastructure in order to so do.
“I ask that the project be looked at with fresh eyes and impetus and that the Minister prioritise it and speak to Transport Infrastructure Ireland about the case I have set out. The Minister should meet the significant stakeholders who cannot understand why there is not more emphasis on and priority given to the construction of this road,” she said.
Senator Mulherin also pointed out that following An Bord Pleanála’s decision last December to grant planning permission for a new bridge along the N26 at Cloongullane, environmental issues surrounding the road have been addressed.

‘Dismayed’
Replying, Minister Ross said that under the Roads Act, the planning, design and operation of individual roads are matters for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII). He said the preferred route N5/N26/N58 adopted by Mayo County Council in July 2015 could not proceed due to financial constraints and TII’s need to focus on the ‘progression of the schemes identified for development during the period of the capital investment plan 2016 to 2021’.  
His response was criticised by Senator Mulherin, who said the project was critical and his answer was failing the people of Mayo.
“County Mayo is not compact; it is a big county with massive potential. We want to play our part, but this road project needs to be sorted. Where there is the political will, there is a way. I am intimately familiar with this and all other roads in County Mayo. The TII has told me that it must receive some political guidance on how it should proceed.
“People in County Mayo have been crucified by environmental designation. I hope the Minister is seriously concerned that more than €10 million has been spent since 2010 and not one sod has been turned to improve any part of a national primary road in the area. This is crucifying social and economic growth. Is this not of concern to him? I am dismayed that he gave me a standard-issue answer when I set out an authentic case.
“I ask the Minister to revisit this issue and listen to the parties concerned. It is not good enough to pass the buck to the TII because I can show him correspondence in which I was told where the power lay. I implore him to take a second look at this issue and not to brush me off.”

MPU Mayo