Fianna Fáil councillor Johnny O’Malley has called for a workshop to formulate a plan for a new route to Ballina, which he said was vitally important for the region. He has also called on Taoiseach, elected TDs, County Councillors and Town Councillors to attend the workshop.
Cllr O’Malley believes a workshop would be more beneficial than a public meeting, which he said could more easily lead to political point-scoring. He suggested that the workshop should be chaired by the Ballina Area Manager.
In February 2010 following an An Bord Pleanála decision to reject a plan to upgrade the N26 from Ballina to Bohola the proposed project was scrapped.
Cllr O’Malley said the issue had been parked for two years, and that action was now urgently required to identify a definitive new route if the town was not to be ‘left behind’ in the long-term.
Cllr O’Malley pointed out that the new route would be a fitting legacy for Minister of State Michael Ring and Taoiseach Enda Kenny. “We have never had political clout. Now we have a Junior Minister in The Department of Transport and the leader of the country. This is a proper legacy for the Taoiseach to leave us in North of the county.”
Fianna Fáil Councillor Willie Nolan said that Ballina was a natural hub for wind and wave energy and that direct access to Ballina to give the town the potential to attract industry. He added: “There is direct access to the sea and the Ox Mountains, which is undoubtedly one of the best wind outlets in Ireland. The N26 has to be upgraded to accommodate this. It could give Ballina a huge lift in terms of the potential to attract industry.”
Speaking to The Mayo News after the meeting, Cllr O’Malley underscored the importance of agreeing a route. “This is not just a road into Ballina. This is a road into North Mayo. It affects half the county.”
He continued, “Enda Kenny can virtually attend every envelope opening since he got elected, so I won’t be easy on him if he can’t put aside two hours to attend a workshop in Ballina or Castlebar … Both the Junior Minister and the Taoiseach got a considerable vote in Ballina and in North Mayo, so I believe that they owe the people.”
Town Manager Paddy Mahon and all of the councillors supported the call for the workshop. Cllr O’Malley said correspondence would be made over the coming days to the Taoiseach, the Junior Minister, TDs, councillors and public representatives. He is hopeful the workshop could be held sometime in the next two months. He concluded, “This is a national issue and our TDs were elected to address national issues. This is an issue which is hindering the tourism opportunities and investment in North Mayo.”