THE GLOVES are off between the two heavyweight General Election candidates in the west Mayo region with Michael Ring TD in the blue corner and Cllr Frank Chambers in the green corner sparring with each other over funding, or the lack of it for the new N5 road between Westport and Castlebar.
Deputy Ring got the first blow in when he accused Cllr Chambers of allowing the funding for the N5 to slip from the top of the priority list while he was Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, and was amused to note that Cllr Chambers was going to meet with the Westport Chamber of Commerce in relation to the road.
He queried whether Cllr Chambers had any input at all into Fianna Fáil, demanded the NRA and the Government make the road a priority and called for the project to be approved immediately.
“Does Cllr Chambers not remember when he was Chairman of Mayo County Council that this road was the number one priority? But, by the time he left the Chair, it had been demoted. He should explain to the Westport Chamber of Commerce how he let it drop from the number one priority, to not even being a priority now with the Government,” said Deputy Ring.
However, Cllr Chambers took a swipe back at Deputy Ring, saying the personal attack showed that he was ‘shaking in his boots’, that he had failed to deliver ‘one iota’ to Mayo since he got elected, and was ‘sitting on his hands’ while Westport was losing jobs and business.
Responding to Ring’s allegations, Cllr Chambers told The Mayo News that after discussions between the Strategic Policy Committee [SPC] and Mayo County Council, the decision was taken to prioritise the N5 Charlestown by-pass and the N26 to ‘open up the county’ and the current Fine Gael-led Council had done nothing to change this. He said he was confident once work on the N26 began, the planning process will begin for the N5 and funding will be made available.
“The decision was taken by the Council to open up the county so the whole county could benefit. I stand over that decision, it was in the best interest of the county and we did get funding for the by-pass which is under construction at the moment. The Council which is now under Fine Gael decided to go with the second section to include the N26 to Ballina, to open up the north side of the county.
“The third part is the Westport to Castlebar road and I am fully committed to see that it and the ringroads go ahead. I cannot see any problems in getting the N5 kick-started and getting it planned out for the funding to get on stream. Our decision to open up the county was a collective decision taken by all sectors and the present Fine Gael-led Council has not tried to change that decision either,” responded Cllr Chambers.
Meanwhile Cllr Chambers has confirmed that he spoke to Minister of the Environment, Dick Roche TD regarding the R312 Castlebar to Erris road and was told by the Minister that he would favourably consider providing funding for the road if the County Council backs the project. Cllr Chambers said if the funding was approved it would amount to €10 million per year over five to six years from the new Strategic Non-National Roads Fund scheme. Cllr Chambers also confirmed that funding for the Gaeltacht part of the road could be available from the Department of the Gaeltacht.