It is imperative to the connectivity of Ballina to other major towns in the county - that the N26 from Mount Falcon to Foxford and then on to Ballyvary to join up with the new N5 Castlebar to Westport - gets put back on the agenda - a number of councillors said this week.
On the topic, Fine Gael councillor John O'Hara had a notice of motion down for the April meeting of the Ballina Municipal District, which read: "Calling on Ballina Municipal Area to request Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII ) to find out what stage the proposed N58 road from Foxford to Ballyvary is at, at this present time."
A response from TII was received by the council before the meeting, which stated that, while the scheme was adopted in 2015: "The further progression of this scheme is, however, currently suspended, due to funding constraints and the requirement of Transport Infrastructure Ireland to focus on the progression of those schemes that have been identified for development during the period of the National Development Plan 2018 to 2027."
Cllr O'Hara expressed anger at the response, saying: "I do want to thank the council for getting the response back, but it is the most negative I have ever seen, it is not even on the agenda, not even up there to do. It is like we are out there on our own - like going to Bertra Island down here in Ballina. I want the county manager (chief executive ) to answer this and I want it to go further and be brought up at the county council meeting next time.
"This is a disgrace, we are down here and left on our own; we were told by the former county manager he was going to link up the three biggest towns together and Ballina is nearly the biggest, but we are like an orphan out here, there is not a bit of heed on us.
"If we are going to be seen - we're on about bloody walkways and runways and we are getting €100,000. The last week, €13 million went into Castlebar; the day before yesterday, Michael Ring was on about €9 million more (Westport library investment ) - there was €2.4 million more for the airport and we're getting €100,000 for walkways and this nonsense, but we're not getting a road into Ballina.
"The fact is, here in Ballina we have Coca-Cola, Hollister, Charles River and a lot more and we have our hauliers coming in. Do you think that a visitor coming into Castlebar or Westport is going to come to Ballina?
"And I know our people are there representing us and I know we have councillors Reape and Weir, they have been focused on the N26; but we were told there would be connectivity to Castlebar and we were told a few months ago at a meeting, that nothing has come, and we are not going to get nothing. I am asking our local TD Dara Calleary and he's the only government representative we have, to go out and try and get Ballina back on the map at least, because we haven't the link, we're not going to have a link and we are left out there. You can say what you like but there is nothing being done and I am awful disappointed with the answer I have got back. It is an answer that it is on the shelf."
Cllr O'Hara was supported by his party colleague Cllr Jarlath Munnelly, who said: "I want to support it 100 per cent and it is something I feel very strongly about and have said it numerous times. This is the most important road coming into Ballina, along with the orbital road; because, as John said, Castlebar and Westport are being linked up by the N5 and that's good, it is good for Mayo.
"The next phase is to link Ballina up with Castlebar, the road from Ballina to Castlebar is more important than the road from Ballina to Swinford - there is more traffic on it; it is more important from an employment point of view and it is of more benefit to Ballina, to be honest, and that is both ways - because there are Castlebar and Westport people who work in Ballina and obviously there are a lot of services in Castlebar that people in Ballina use."
Independent councillor Mark Duffy also supported the call, saying: "I would like to support John on this motion - I would say from a Ballina perspective, the upgrading of the N26 to a national grade from Ballina to Foxford, should remain the priority, then the N58 and then the Foxford to Swinford stretch. The reason I say this is that the N26 between Ballina and Foxford is one of the busiest roads in the county, it is busier than the N58 and I just checked in 2019, it had 8,000 car movements a day on it versus the N58, which had about 6,000.
"Westport received €250 million of funding to Castlebar, they have maybe less than 1,000 more car movements on average between Westport and Castlebar per day versus Ballina.
"So for those couple of hundred extra cars, they were able to achieve €250 million, so I think it is vitally important from a Ballina and north Mayo perspective, that the Foxford to Ballina road is upgraded to a national standard and then it veers off at O'Hara's to Ballyvary and then it connects to Castlebar and Westport."
Director of services for Mayo County Council, Tom Gilligan, also gave his backing to the motion, saying: "I do support this one; the N58 has to be a priority going forward, it is the key connectivity route between Ballina and Castlebar.
"To take it in context, we are spending €117 million this year on our roads programme, the largest ever; the N26 Clongullane is a very important scheme too - particularly when you have now the N5 from Ballaghaderreen to Scramoge on the Roscommon side coming - that will be finished in another year or two and will increase the traffic.
"Either through a new road or else through a seres of minor works, we do have to improve that connectivity between Castlebar and Ballina. I do believe it is imperative going forward."