Government accused of deliberately thwarting county’s development
Oisín McGovern and Anton McNulty
THE Government has been accused of hindering the county’s development, with the recent allocation of €37 million for regional and local roads deemed woefully insufficient.
A number of county councillors have expressed concern that many regional and local roads around the county will be left in a state of disrepair if additional government funding is not provided later in the year.
The Department of Transport has allocated €37,244,840 to Mayo County Council for regional and local roads, with €19.5 million allocated for improvement works and €2.8m for maintenance works.
The figure is an increase of roughly €4 million compared to last year’s allocation, but councillors are stressing that the costs involved in roadworks has increased by 35 percent.
Achill-based councillor Paul McNamara told yesterday’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council that he feared for the state of some roads next winter should more funding not provided.
“From 2021 to 2022 we had a price increase and inflation of about 35 percent, so we should have got an extra €11.5 million, which we didn’t.
My argument is we are now down €16 million over a two-year period [while being expected] to deliver the same roads programme we did on 2021,” he said, saying the shortfall is already having a major affect on the quality of regional and local roads.
Mayo has around 5,500km of local roads and 600km of regional roads, figures that Cllr McNamara said he pointed out to Minister of State at the Department of Transport Jack Chambers during his visit to Mayo on Friday.
“The allocation is very little when you see what needs to be covered, and I said to Minister Chambers that we need a second allocation in September to bring the roads programme to what it should be.
“The state of our local roads is absolutely disgraceful in some parts of west Mayo and in Achill. The R319, which is approximately 35 kilometres in length from Mulranny to Keel West, is in a terrible state. It has more humps and hollows than a camel’s back.
It needs at least €3 million to bring it up to a proper standard,” he said, adding: “If we don’t get a second allocation of funding I fear for the state of our local roads in 2024. To be honest they are a health and safety issue at the moment.”
A number of councillors agreed with Cllr McNamara, including Killala-based councillor Jarlath Munnelly.
Cllr Munnelly stated that some roads along the Wild Atlantic Way are not fit for the high level of traffic they see during the summer, and he called for a new fund to be made available for regional and local roads along popular tourism route.
Cllr Damien Ryan criticised the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, saying that he has taken money out of the roads programme for active travel projects and cycleways and has failed to increase road-maintenance funding to match inflation.
The lack of funding was also raised at the Ballina Municipal District meeting, where councillors criticised Mayo’s recent allocation of €950,000 under the Local Improvement Scheme (LIS), which allows local authorities to repair and take charge of roads they do not maintain.
Ballina-based councillor John O’Hara described the roads in North Mayo as being in ‘terrible condition’ and called for Mayo’s LIS funding to be doubled.
“I urge the council here to look for more money,” he said, “because our roads, when you go out of here, they are in terrible condition. It’s not the council engineers we blame, it’s the Government.”
The Fine Gael councillor then accused the Government of deliberately thwarting North Mayo’s progress through various policies.
“The farmer, if he has 40 cows, he has to cut back nine. You cannot burn a bush, you cannot cut turf, you cannot do nothing. What they want to do is close down North Mayo,” he said, before reiterating his criticism of the controversial Coillte deal with a UK investment fund.
“If we keep going like this there will be no one living in Mayo.
There will be no one in it, and our culture is going. The culture out in Germany doesn’t go away, but it’s going here and it’s going fairly quick.”
Independent Cllr Séamus Weir said Mayo’s LIS funding had fallen ‘way short’ because of increased costs. He called on his colleagues to write to TDs and Senators demanding that Mayo receive more money for local-road repair.
Fine Gael councillor Jarlath Munnelly agreed that more funding is needed, telling Cllr Weir that TDs and ministers ‘ignore me as much they ignore as anyone else’.
“Then leave them then,” replied Cllr Weir, who himself left Cllr Munnelly’s party a number of years previously.
Mayo County Council’s Director of Services for Roads Tom Gilligan admitted that Mayo’s LIS allocation was insufficient to treat every local road. He also acknowledged that the increase in LIS funding ‘won’t go that far’, given the increased cost of materials.