CONTINUOUSLY HIGHLIGHTED The issue over the footpath on George’s Street has been highlighed by locals for years, with this photo having appeared in The Mayo News as far back as 2007.
Residents beg for notorious Newport street to be addressed
“I dread it,” said Newport resident Elaine McCaffrey. Every day, she makes a five-minute journey with her young children from her home to Newport National School. “We still try to walk to school every day, but every time I do it is gut wrenching.”
Elaine and her husband and three children, Iseult, Louis and Beibhinn, moved into their new home on the Quay Road in Newport in July 2021 after living in Dublin for eleven years. Having walked and cycled everywhere while in Dublin, they were looking forward to living back in the countryside, with the Greenway on their doorstep.
But Elaine soon discovered one big obstacle to their enjoyment: George Street in Newport. The busy street and its notoriously narrow path run from the top of Main Street in the town centre down a steep hill and around a sharp corner onto the main N59 road to Mulranny.
The Quay road, where Elaine lives, comes out onto George Street. Having to negotiate its crossing on the daily commute to school is not for the fainthearted.
“It is not until you travel it that you actually realise how bad it is. It is desperate, like something from the 1940s… it is shockingly bad,” she told The Mayo News.
The plight of George Street and its narrow footpath has been highlighted for many years, and residents are extremely frustrated that nothing is being done.
Taking matters into their own hands, Elaine, along with a number of other parents and residents, formed the George’s Street Concern Group in January.
Catherine Sheridan, a member of the group, runs the pre- and after-school service on Main Street, and twice a day she walks up to 15 children along George’s Street to and from Newport National School.
“Every single day it a real daunting prospect of having to do this with children aged five and up. We actually have a walking rope which the children hold onto. They are excellent on following directions, but the street is so narrow and busy with heavy traffic. There is no proper crossing, and you are at the mercy of people to allow you to cross,” she explained.
The George’s Street Concern Group has been in contact with Mayo County Council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland. While they accept that work is going on ‘behind the scenes’ to address the situation, they feel something needs to be done now to make the street safe.
“We fully appreciate there is a process ongoing and there are people trying to help, but we really would welcome some interim safety measures in order for all road users to be safe on George’s Street,” Catherine said. “It is not only for us but for all road users. You cannot get a wheelchair or buggy up that street safely without going out on that road.”
The new Newport town plan which was given the go-ahead in recent months has plans to bring the Great Western Greenway along the old railway line behind Main Street.
While this may solve greenway-related safety concerns, the plan does not solve the issue of negotiating George’s Street.
“It [the town plan] is brilliant and wonderful,” Elaine said, “but you cannot ignore the fact that you have a street there which is unusable for pedestrians. It makes no sense that you have this state-of-the-art greenway but your local children are not able to cycle to school.
“Any parents I have spoken to are really frustrated by the situation and desperately hoping there can be some works done whether, they are an interim or long-term solution,” Elaine said.
Attracta Cowley who runs Attracta’s Laundrette, one of the three businesses along the street, says that the situation is affecting her business.
“As a child growing up here, the street was a disaster then – but it was nowhere like it is now. The street is so ridiculously fast and there are so many cars. It is near impossible for a customer to get into us because there is rarely parking outside the door and if they park across the road is near impossible for them to cross. They are literally petrified to come out of their car.”
Attracta says she has seen many near misses along the street in recent years and asks will it take a child to be hit by a car before anything is done with the street.
“One day a car or truck will go up there and a child will be free wheeling down that hill and they will end up under the car. Do we literally have to sacrifice a child to get something done?
“I would ask any one who makes the decision to take their five year old and walk up that street. The two of you cannot get around that pinch in the corner without stepping off the footpath onto the road, which is insane on a national route.
“There isn’t a footpath in Castlebar or Westport under the minimum [width] requirements for a footpath. We don’t want much we just want the bare minimum to survive, literally. We just want the bare minimum to make ourselves safe and not put our lives in danger every time we step on the street,” she said.