Roads funding ‘a disgrace’

Tensions rise in Council chamber  Seamus Duke  There were lively exchanges as the 2008 non-national road allocation for Co.  Roscommon was discussed at this week’s monthly meeting of Roscommon County Council. Several opposition and independent councillors were up in arms at what they saw as a sizeable cut in funding for 2008.   It was revealed that while the figure for 2008 is €18.3 million, this allocation included €560,000, a payment for flood relief and money that had already been spent in 2007 – meaning that the 2008 figure is actually 17.7 million, which is the same figure as last year.   Opening the debate Cllr. John Connor (Fine Gael) said that the figure was a huge decrease on the 2007 allocation. ‘There is inflation of at least 10% in the price of road materials, many of which are oil based and there are increases in wages, etc. The figure for local improvement schemes is halved, which is a disgrace’ he said.   Independent Cllr. Tom Crosby said that the 2008 allocation was an indication of very weak Oireachtas representation in Roscommon. ‘It’s about half what we should have got when you look at what other counties got. We need an urgent review of how this money is allocated. It’s a disgrace’ he said.   Independent councillor Tony Ward said that he was very disappointed to see that there was no funding for people affected by flooding in 2008. ‘The people of Clonown are faced with a round trip of 24 miles every day because of flooding. We have got to look after these people, but we are not doing so’ he said.   Cllr. Valerie Byrne said that the figure for 2008 was ‘scandalous’.’ She continued: ‘It’s the same story for the people of Roscommon every year – cut, cut, cut’. However she complimented the council on the job that they had done on the Elphin to Strokestown road in recent months.   Fine Gael Cllr. Charlie Hopkins said that the reduction in the Local Improvement schemes meant that there would be two roads per electoral area done in 2008 – down from six per area last year. ‘Two roads a year per area is a disgrace, a laugh’ he commented.    Fine Gael Cllr. Michael McGreal said that he wanted the N60 road which runs from Roscommon to Castlerea and on to Ballinlough to be declared as a national primary route. ‘It s about time this very busy road was funded properly’ he said.   In reply Fianna Fail Cllr. Eugene Murphy said that while some of the figures were disappointing, he wanted to point out that in the past five years €60 million had been spent on the N5. ‘A remarkable job had been done there and there is no denying it’ he said.   Cllr. Sean Beirne (FG) said that the allocation was a disaster. ‘It’s far from the picture painted by Deputy (Michael) Finneran before the election. I’m sick and tired of it every year’ he said.   However Fianna Fail Cllr. Paddy Kilduff was having none of it. ‘These figures are being mis-represented here today. There is Clar funding on the way and that wasn’t mentioned. When Cllr. Connor was in his heyday there was one and a half million spent on the N5 in 20 years – however over the past five years there has been €60 million spent, so he shouldn’t be spouting here today. There has been €45 million spent on the Athlone to Ballinasloe road this year so far as well. Fine Gael are always spouting’ he said.   It was agreed that the council would write to the relevant Minister for an increase in the allocation for Local Improvement Schemes which had been cut to a figure of €260,000 from over €510,000 in 2007.   Director of Services Ms. Majella Hunt said that the programme of work for 2008 would be ready soon and would be presented to councillors at area meetings in the next few weeks. They said it