Fine Gael councillor John Dolan has called for stricter controls on the use of sulkies in residential areas and on minor roads.
Cllr Dolan made the call at this month’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District when he told the chamber that some sulky riders are currently acting in a manner that is a danger to the public.
“We are all aware of this issue,” he said. “I myself have met sulkies on minor country roads while in the car, and it is dangerous. Sulkies are being raced in estates and we had an incident two weeks ago in the village of Castledaly where they raced down through the village. Now, it’s not illegal as they are in control of the animal, but at the same time it shouldn’t have to be accepted by people living in the area.”
Cllr Dolan said there is currently no by-law governing the use of sulkies and called for that to change. He acknowledged it was a “thorny issue” but said something needs to be done. He suggested introducing specific times and areas where sulkies might be used which are enforceable by law. He concluded by saying he did not want to prevent people from enjoying their pastimes, but that controls needed to be introduced in the interest of public safety.
Councillor Paul Hogan (SF ) said he has noticed an increase in the number of sulkies being used on public roads recently. He said it was important that the council act when the safety of people in the community becomes an issue, and suggested raising the issue at the next SPC meeting to establish if the council need to make provisions for by-laws.
Fianna Fáil councillor Aengus O’Rourke said the problem is a serious one, remarking that roads are dangerous enough without having to contend with the added danger provided by some sulky drivers.
Director of services, Barry Kehoe, said it is a “difficult issue” but that the Gardaí should be informed if public safety is at risk, and that the Department of Agriculture be contacted in connection with the welfare of the animals. He added that the executive will examine how other counties have approached the issue before returning to the chamber with a report in September.