The elected members of Mayo County Council lent their vocal if not official support to the residents of Straide, who according to spokesperson Mary Roache “will see our community split in two” if Irish Rail get permission to close off three railway crossings XX31, XX32 and XX33.
The crossing at XX32 is where local man PJ McGowan was killed following a crash last year and the residents have no problem with that crossing being closed. It is the crossing at XX31 which they say will lead to the community being split down the middle.
Ms Roache told the members that if the crossing at XX31 is closed, a journey from Kelly’s Cross to the main Castlebar road which is now 0.9km will be a 2.8 km journey. The residents have no issue with the closing of the crossings at XX32 or XX33, but the crossing XX31 is seen by them as a lifeline to their community.
Ms Roache went on to say that her father has lived at the XX31 all his life, a total of 75 years and has never seen an accident and that the health and safety person from Irish Rail told them that the crossing was safe. She said the whole process was a “farce” as Irish Rail had not consulted with the residents at all about this decision.
The members were warned by director of services for Mayo County Council Joe Loftus that the council executive could not comment on the issue at the moment because there was a live planning application in the system in relation to this and the decision would not be made until March 22. There was cross-party support for the residents in the chamber, the council executive was asked about writing a letter to Irish Rail about the issue, but Mr Loftus told the members that it would not be prudent to do so until the planning permission had been resolved first as the application still had to be decided upon. Cathaoirleach of the Council Joe Mellett told the meeting: “It is clear how the community felt about the issue as 475 people had signed a petition calling on Irish Rail to withdraw the application and engage with the community.”