The people’s agenda Newport
ON the face of it, the picturesque West Mayo town of Newport would seem to have a lot going for it. It is ideally located in relation to the county’s main population base in Castlebar and the county’s main tourist town, Westport, and its position on the banks of the Black Oak River means there is huge potential for development.
However, on the short journey from Westport to Newport one of the main problems which would seem to be stifling the development of the area is the N59 and the generally poor standard of the road. Speaking to people in the town, they feel the road has been in this state for far too long and the General Election candidates will most definitely be told this by the majority when they come knocking.
Narrow and windy, the N59 has received very little in the way of upgrade work in recent years. The road to Castlebar has improved considerably but that is a regional road and the national road leading to Newport, the N59, is this dangerous 11km stretch.
En route to Newport this reporter encountered a truck that was partly lodged into a wall at Barley Hill trying to facilitate another truck pass on the other side.
Other issues which come up time and again are the fact that there is no industry in the town, no secondary school, no full time garda presence and often little activity on the town’s Main Street as businesses strive to compete with bigger operations in nearby Castlebar and Westport.
The people acknowledge the work that has been done on the Castlebar to Newport road but most feel the Newport to Westport road is of greater importance.
Every person encountered spoke about the need for a secondary school in the town, something which has been an issue for a long time.
“Not getting the school was a major disappointment, I’ve kids who would really have benefited from the school and when you take into account the amount of building going on in the town, I think there is now still a need for a secondary school,” one businessman, who opted to withhold his name, commented.
Another huge issue which is most definitely apparent in Newport is the lack of a permanent Garda presence. The town has a Garda Barracks but this is only manned for one hour every day and anyone who calls to the station outside of this hour will end up contacting Westport Garda Station which is 11 kilometres away.
“I’ve nothing against the two guards that come here but they’re just not sent here often enough. I was robbed recently at 11am in the morning and it was nearly 5pm when a guard arrived. At night time too, a Garda presence would make a big difference, at least it would make people feel safer,” said one concerned resident.
While Hotel Newport has undoubtedly made the town more attractive from a tourist point of view, the lack of any industry in the town means that during the week Newport can be a quiet town, too quiet according to many.
“We need a business that can kick-start an employment base in the town. If even 10 or 20 people were working in the town in a small, progressive industry this would mean retail businesses in the town would be busier and there would be a knock-on effect. The improvement of the road to Castlebar means that access has improved and we should be pushing development agencies to promote our town,” stated another local.
The people of Newport definitely feel their town has potential for growth. They feel the issues obstructing this potential are obvious and they hope these issues will be tackled during the term of the next government.
The people speak
“One thing there seems to be very little talk about is the road leading from Westport to Newport. I think it is in a terrible state, it’s one of the worst main roads around. We’ve practically no industry, at least we’ve a hotel in the town now which has been a help. We’ve got good deeds from the current government but there’s a lot more that could be done too.”
“We were promised a school and we never got it. The harbour in Newport is a fine amenity that we have but it’s not being developed at all. The road to Westport is very bad, infrastructure is very bad around the town. An awful lot can be done, whether it will happen or not, I don’t know. I think there has been a line drawn from Dublin to Galway and if you live on the south of that line you’re in great shape but if you live north of it, forget about it. That’s across the parties.”