Cllr Stephen Keary: route is death knell for village
COUNCILLORS have formally passed a motion calling for a link to Croagh to be included in the Limerick-Foynes road upgrade.
Residents, and business owners in the West Limerick village were dismayed when plans for the new Adare bypass were published showing no junction to serve the village.
Instead, motorists trying to access Croagh would have to exit at either Adare or Rathkeale - a move many councillors fear will decimate trade and jobs in the area.
At a specially convened council meeting on Friday last, Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary called for a slip road to be constructed on the proposed route to allow access to Croagh.
He said the new road, and its bypassing of Croagh is “possibly the single biggest issue in over a generation” to face that community.
“Croagh village is home to a church, school, music school, garden centre, nursing home, creche, hairdresser, medical centre, restaurant shop and two pubs to name but a few, together with a thriving agricultural sector,” he told the meeting - which was also attended by a group of business people from the village.
He believes if an interchange is not included, “the jobs of almost 200 people within the area defined as the settlement of Croagh are being put in jeopardy”.
“The proposed route will not just overlook Croagh, but it will also completely isolate the surrounding towns and villages of Kilfinny, Cappagh and Rathkeale.
“It will make accessibility between the N21 and surrounding parishes and visitor attractions virtually impossible,” Cllr Keary added.
“"The socio-economic implications for this route will sound the death knell for the area.”
Cllr Keary's motion was seconded by his party colleague, former mayor Liam Galvin, who said: “If just two cars used this interchange each day, that would be 14 cars a week. This could be the difference between a business closing and not closing.”
Fianna Fail councillor Kevin Sheahan, while backing the motion, warned the final decision on the route design will rest with An Bord Pleanala, while Independent member Richard O'Donoghue dismissed claims an interchange could cost up to €10m.
“I have worked in construction all my life, and I can tell you, it would not cost between €5m and €10m to build a slip road.
“Croagh has been bypassed once already [by the N21]. Why would you try and kill a community which is fighting to keep its businesses and shops open,” he asked the executive, which also included representatives of consulting engineers Roughan O'Donovan, which was appointed to progress the route.
Sinn Fein’s Ciara McMahon said: “Not alone does [the lack of inclusion] show utter disregard for the people of Croagh, but once again, it is a target of centralisation.
“Rural Ireland is being destroyed, demoralised, disintegrated and devastated by decisions such as these. An interchange is a reasonable request from a community to have access to their village.”
New Fine Gael councillor Adam Teskey pointed out that of the 13,300 cars using the N21 daily, only eight percent now come off the main road into Croagh.
If the bypass goes ahead without a junction to the village, he claimed it would see Croagh's traffic drop to just 200 vehicles a day.
“There are 200 jobs in Croagh and 11 family businesses. I cannot support the bypassing of these,” he told the meeting.
Independent councillor Emmett O'Brien added: “Rural Ireland is under siege,” and called for the support of all MEPs.
Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune, who was present, said: “Limerick is a growing community, Adare is growing. I don't think any area should be cut off in terms of its development. There is a positive proposal being put forward, and I think this should be looked at.”
The only councillor in the chamber to speak against a proposed link to Croagh was metropolitan district Independent member John Gilligan.
He pointed out that Limerick was looking at a multi-million euro investment last year in the shape of the Northern Distributor Road.
Yet, he added, only three councillors - himself included - voted in favour of it.
“It is always very easy to do the popular thing, but it is very difficult to be objective, and it doesn't mean you’re going to be popular.
“Everyone would prefer if Croagh gets connectivity. But the road into Croagh was there yesyterday, and it will be there tomorrow. It is not being isolated. Councillors have this fear of doing nothing for fear of upsetting people. I will not support anything that could hinder the road between here and Foynes,” Cllr Gilligan said.
While most councillor’s speeches were met with applause and cheers, one could hear a pin drop in the chamber after the firebrand Independent gave his thoughts.
Cllr Keary’s motion called on the council to support the connection of Croagh to the Limerick/Foynes road upgrade. He asked all relevant technical and environmental expertise be engaged by the council with the design and implementation of the interchange.