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‘We have been completely abandoned’

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‘NOT SUITABLE, BUT DANGEROUS’ The road to Derrada which is proposed to be used as a diversion.

Islandeady community furious with plans to close main road into village for three months

Edwin McGreal

Mayo County Council have been accused of ‘completely abandoning’ the community of Islandeady over plans to close the main road into the village for three months.
Fr Chris Brennan, the priest in the parish, is one of several community representatives who is extremely critical of the plans to close the L1811 into Islandeady village as part of road works for the new Castlebar to Westport dual carriageway.
Road users will have to take a 15 minute diversion via ‘dangerous and narrow’ roads in Derrada or a longer diversion into Castlebar via the Newport Road and back out to Islandeady via the Westport road.
Plans were initially in place to close the road for nine months but following representations from the Islandeady Community Council and a subsequent meeting with Mayo County Council and Wills Bros Ltd, the company who are constructing the road, local representatives say a three month closure has been mooted.
Locals are resisting this and are furious with what they say is the lack of prior consultation for the move. They say they only found out about the nine month closure when some locals saw it advertised in local newspapers.
“The most fundamental issue here is the community has been completely abandoned by Mayo County Council,” Fr Brennan, Adm of Islandeady Parish, told The Mayo News.
“That’s where the problem lies, not with Wills who are a private company. Mayo County Council are a statutory body. They know where our properties are when they tax us.
“We elect councillors and the staff of Mayo County Council are employed by us, the taxpayers but they are acting as monarchs and I’ve told them before, we are not subjects, we are citizens and they are subjects of citizens. They are acting as if they own the place, their staff are acting like dictators. There was zero consultation here.
“Where are the local councillors, the TDs and the council staff? We’ve been abandoned by Mayo County Council in all its facets,” said Fr Brennan.
“We feel let down by our council officials and our local councillors. The only councillor who has done anything was John O’Malley, and he’s not even in this municipal district,” added John McCormack, representing both the local GAA club and local farmers.
Locals say they were informed by Wills Brothers last Wednesday that current plans are to close the L1811 from May 1, 2021 for three months. There were, John McCormack says, some suggestions that a proposed new road to the local graveyard might alleviate some of the diversions but that they were given no assurances it would be in place for any of the proposed three month period.
“We presented an alternative option to them which will feel is viable. They can find a way around this if they want to, if they have the will. It can be done, it is not rocket science. This happens with roadworks all over the country,” said Mr McCormack.

Supportive of new road
Chairperson of Islandeady Community Council, Liam Keaveney, said the community council actively supported the new dual carriageway when it was at public consultation stage and reiterated they are not against the new road.
John McCormack echoed this, although he added Islandeady was not benefitting directly as there was no slipway to the village itself off the new road, with junctions only at Pheasant Hill, just outside Castlebar, and Corrib Oil, close to Westport.
“Mayo County Council need to treat the Islandeady community and the Community Council with more respect than we have been given and ensure proper consultation,” said Liam Keaveney.
The group were also ‘annoyed’ at a report from a recent county council roads strategic policy committee where a council official made no mention of the three month closure.
“We were relieved to read that in The Mayo News last Tuesday that there would be no long-term closure but then went into the meeting with Wills on Wednesday last and were told about the three month closure. That angered and annoyed us greatly,” said Liam Keaveney.
James Burke, a local resident and an engineer said there are a number of options locals are considering, including objecting.
“A huge issue is the lack of consultation and communication,” he said.
We ask them that it looks like they won’t take this lying down.
“We could be lying down,” interjects Fr Brennan, a reference to a possible sit-down protest.

Council response
In response to questions from The Mayo News, Mayo County Council stated they ‘anticipate the statutory consultation process to potentially close the L1811 Islandeady Road for a specified period of time will take place in Quarter 1 or Quarter 2. 2021’.
“The timing of this process will depend on Wills BAM Joint Venture’s programme for works in the Islandeady area.
“In adjudicating the potential road closure Mayo County Council will invite submissions from the public, assess the inconvenience the specified duration of a road closure will have on the community, consider alternatives, risk assess the capacity of the existing road network to cater for alternative routes and also consider the requirements on the contractor to construct the L1811 Islandeady Road tie-ins in safe and a timely fashion,” they stated.
Responding to this update, Liam Keaveney said it was ‘the first we’ve heard of any formal consultation process’.
“Why were we not told of this ourselves? We would of course welcome such a development but we have to ask the question why is such a consultation process only being mooted now? The process, we are told, is only due to commence in 2021 so how is it that an advertisement in a local newspaper in July of this year said the road was going to be closed for nine months from August 2020 with the alternative route determined?” he asked.