Angry scenes as councillors plan Monday meeting on road proposal

The public disquiet over the proposed construction of the Galway City N6 Transport project shows no sign of abating with county councillors arranging an emergency meeting next Monday to debate the heated issue.

The anger and trauma which is being felt by the general public in relation to the new proposed bypass project led to one Galway county councillor being accused of having the attitude of Oliver Cromwell.

Republican Sinn Fein representative Tomás Ó Curraoin was clearly extremely upset following the outburst from a member of the public, which occurred in Barna last weekend. He told Monday’s county council meeting that he “felt like ground opening up and swallowing me”, when he was subjected to the tirade by an irate woman. The Connemara councillor was speaking as part of a debate on the new N6 Galway City Transport Project.

Councillor Ó Curraoin gave an impassioned speech to the chamber describing how distressing it was to have been compared with the English military leader. “This is what was hit on me, and many others will be hit with the same thing. It is Cromwellian the way people are being treated. It is outrageous, I won’t stand for people’s houses being knocked, let’s get real, potentially knocking 130 houses because of a couple of old ferns and bushes. We are lying down to these bureaucrats, if there is any Fenian blood in us, we must stand up to these cronies or else we should not be here at all.”

The plan had been for councillors to discuss a motion from Carnmore based Independent councillor Jim Cuddy, who proposed a stop to the progression of the six proposed routes for the new road. Councillor Cuddy is appealing to consultants to go back to the drawing board and make more realistic and acceptable proposals.

Council CEO Kevin Kelly sounded a word of warning to local representatives about discussing the issue without full information and a prior presentation from ARUP Consultants. Mr Kelly said it was important that members had full clarity on how the project was progressing and future plans. “I am concerned there may be some level of mis-understanding out there about going back to the old proposed route [Galway City Outer Bypass] and even if that was possible for environmental reasons, there are problems with connectivity between that route and major arterial routes. It is important not to make comments which will undermine the current consultation phase. We do not want more false information out there, further upsetting the public. Members must be conscious they do not have a statutory role in the process at the moment.”

However an angry Jim Cuddy pointed out there was total opposition to all six proposed routes and that people were distraught. He said what was supposed to be an outer city bypass was anything but, as all routes now on the table travel straight through the city. Councillor Cuddy said he and many councillors were receiving hundreds of e-mails on the issue on a daily basis.

“We have a function to make known the views of the people. We have to be seen to be acting for these people - after all it is them who will be paying for this road if it goes ahead. Let the consultants come up with an alternative to what is being proposed. They have to take on board the total opposition to this project going ahead.”

Killimor based councillor Jimmy McClearn acknowledged he was living well away from Galway city but said the disquiet was very understandable. However he said there were some undeniable facts. “Firstly, we need it, secondly irrespective of where it is located, it will cause major disruption - no matter which route is chosen.” He added it was regrettable that the 57 elected representatives in Galway city and county have had no input into the potential routes which were chosen. He suggested that councillors wait for a full presentation before making any decision on Councillor Cuddy’s motion. “I feel it is unwise to deal with it at this stage, I would invite the consultants in to get full detail, it has serious implications for the homeowners involved - and the taxpayer.”

Send in the consultants

Fellow Fine Gael councillor Joe Byrne backed up the sentiments of Jimmy McClearn, saying he didn’t have the confidence to have a full discussion on the issue without being versed by the consultants involved.

A clearly irate Councillor Cuddy said he would not be withdrawing his motion as there was total opposition to the six proposed routes which he described as ‘the only show in town’. He said he could not stand over causing further trauma to the public, and wasting more money. “Not one person has come up to me and said this is a good idea, now is the time to call a halt to it before we waste any more taxpayers’ money. €14 million was spent on the last route, €2 million has already been spent on the current project. None of these routes are workable.”

Turloughmore based councillor Frank Kearney then proposed a counter motion that Arup consultants ‘revisit’ the current proposals. He said he appreciated that a solution was needed but what had been suggested was ‘totally unsuitable’. Councillor Kearny outlined a number of suggestions to the current traffic problems in the city and he appealed for those alternatives to be considered.

Fianna Fáil’s Martina Kinane suggested a reassessment of the routes subject to an urgent meeting to be attended by EU representatives, councillors and members of the public. She called on the 4 MEPs in the north-west to organise such a meeting.

Connemara representative Thomas Welby enquired what exactly was councillors’ role in the process. Kevin Kelly replied that the project would not be coming back before the councillors for statutory approval. Speaking after the meeting Jim Cuddy wanted to know who gave the executives power to over-rule councillors, ‘considering they are not elected’.

It was eventually decided that more time and information was needed to discuss the issue, and a special meeting will take place next Monday March 6

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