A decision on the proposed temporary closure for a number of months of an access road (L1811 ) into Islandeady village as part of the Westport to Turlough Road project - should be made next week - the April meeting of Castlebar Municipal District was told this week.
At the meeting, a presentation was made by the chairperson of the Islandeady Community Council, Mr Liam Keaveney, outlining the concerns of the local community.
He told the meeting that if the road was closed, it would lead to people having to make trips of up to 20kms to get to and from one part of the community to the other, and while they supported the roads project itself, they wanted a temporary access road to be constructed so as to not cut the community off.
Liam Keaveney stated: "We are a thriving rural community with a population of over 1,600 people and we have 550 houses in the area. if the road closes for the three months, we will be a very vulnerable community; we are coming out of Covid-19 and restrictions are lifting. We have a lot of tourist operators in the area and it is not satisfactory that we are potentially sending these tourists back side roads and country roads to get to our local B&Bs and things like that.
"It is going to inconvenience people working in Westport and Castlebar, people that have to commute, they will now potentially have to take added times on their daily journey; add to that the farmers who have land on both sides. The other things we have to look at is people who are providing care to older people. There are families who are providing care, that have to travel, who will have to now go out back towards Westport or back into Castlebar and back out again to do that, adding significant time to journeys.
"You also have the GAA club who have started back up underage training this week. These kids are being brought by parents and we will be sending people back to all four corners of the parish; and what I would say is, if the community didn't care so much about this, we wouldn't be here.
"From the get-go, on the record on numerous occasions, the community has been behind this road; it is the best thing since sliced bread - but we are going to be isolated and divided for the next three months. We won't be able to get to our village to access our church, to get to the GAA pitch to go to training, and for three months, it is a lot in summer, when we should be getting ready to get out and enjoy life after being locked down for so long."
The elected members of the council gave their backing to the community's stance, with Cllr Michael Kilcoyne saying: "What they are asking for is that a road that is going to be put in anyway, be put in now, and that seems perfectly reasonable, to facilitate them; and the road would not have to be closed and I think that is perfectly reasonable. But unfortunately, like many other things, councillors are elected and have no say on a lot of things and we have no say on the road being closed or not."
Councillor Martin McLoughlin, who lives in the Islandeady area, told the meeting that: "I am very familiar with the road structure in Islandeady and the heartbeat of the community and the potential effects on the area. We should not be in this situation, it should have been designed into the project in the beginning, when it was being designed.
"The people in the community are paying a huge price, too high of a price at the moment and it is not fair on the community and the community council have to come along and make an appeal at the eleventh hour. I would ask at this late stage that all come together immediately. With the size of the project and the amount of machinery on site, what I see as being the answer is to stick in a temporary road - in the scale of the project it is nothing; the contractor, design office and the council should come together and listen to the community."
Responding to the presentation and the councillors, Head of the Municipal District, Iarla Moran, said: "I met the community and I have met with the contractor and we have received a detailed submission from the community and many representations from elected members on this, and also what we have heard today from Liam and yourselves. The community has put forward an alternative proposal and this is being considered; we have an obligation to balance the needs of the community which are very important and the needs to construct the road. The proposals that are there and the submissions that have been received are being considered currently and that is the position."
Cllr Kilcoyne asked when was the council likely to come to its conclusion on the issue, to which Mr Moran replied: "To be honest, I had hoped to be at the conclusion by now, but it has taken a little bit longer to get the analysis that I need to look at the alternative proposals and I'm hoping that I'll have that in the next few days and this decision will be able to be made next week. I will let the councillors know and if that timeline changes, I'll let them know too."