ROSCREA'S Fianna Fáil poll topper in the recent elections, Michael Smith, is the first Cathaoirleach of the new Municipal Council for the area and has called on his fellow eight new Councillors to “work together.”
After his unopposed election at the AGM and what was the first meeting of the nine members of the Thurles/Roscrea/Templemore Municipal District after last month's local elections, Cllr Smith said he plans to work hard for the area's three large towns, but not forget all the smaller rural parishes scattered around what is a very large District.
Enabling the local authority's benefits to penetrate even the smallest areas in the District is a key aim of the new Cathaoirleach, who is conscious of the challenges facing rural communities in a District spanning from “Clonakenny to Ballysloe and from Toomevara to Moyne.”
“I hope the nine of us can work together as a team and I am very honoured and humbled to accept the role and lead this new team of representatives of our area,” Cllr Smith told the meeting in Thurles on Monday after accepting the Chain of Office and embarking on a year long period as head of the Municipal Council.
Earmarking the new Digital Hub, the development works at Green Street and Grove Street and the large Market Square rejuvenation project as key issues close to home in Roscrea, Cllr Smith said he was very proud to accept the Cathaoirleach position and hopes to see the small rural villages receive much needed funds for essential infrastructure like adequate lighting, footpaths and roads.
Poll topper in the Thurles electoral area, Micheál Lowry, was elected Leas Cathaoirleach on the new Municipal Council, and is accompanied on the nine-strong new group by two other members of the Lowry Team of Independents – Eddie Moran from Templemore and Shane Lee from Roscrea.
Roadworks were highlighted as a matter of urgency at the meeting, with the current dilapidated state of the N62 on both sides of Templemore cited as an issue repeatedly highlighted to all the Councillors during the pre-election canvassing period.
Matt Shortt, Area Manager, welcomed the new Councillors into their roles and agreed that the N62 on the Roscrea and Thurles approaches to Templemore have become so bad “they are almost unusable.”
“We have an indication from Transport Infrastructure Ireland that a temporary resurfacing will be carried out on the road, which is particularly bad on the Roscrea side, to keep it together long enough until a major repair job can go ahead,” Mr Shortt said.
“The major job is currently being designed by the design office in Limerick and we got a verbal notification that a temporary paving job will be carried out. The road is in such a bad state and has such heavy traffic volumes that it won't last until the major work can go ahead without a temporary repair,” the Manager said.
Councillor Noel Coonan urged caution, expressing his concern that the “stop-gap job might end up being the final job.”
“That road has been repaired several times before and I'd be afraid the stop-gap repair might only end up prolonging the current situation. That road needs to be absolutely state of the art when it's finished and has to be done right,” Cllr Coonan said.
Newly elected Roscrea Councillor, Shane Lee, also highlighted the damaged road surface at the traffic lights junction in Roscrea as an issue causing great upset for residents of the town and visiting motorists using the N62.
“Traffic is forced to swerve around the road to avoid the potholes – that's how serious it is. An accident is going to happen there very soon if something isn't done about it,” Cllr Lee said.
“That section has been identified by Transport Infrastructure Ireland as being in need of repair and it's not approved yet, but it's on the list,” Matt Shortt responded.
Cllr Jim Ryan (Ind) from Thurles told the AGM that a bypass for Thurles must be made a priority by the new Municipal Council, a piece of infrastructure he has long campaigned for and one he feels would transform Thurles' economy.
“The town is being strangled by traffic congestion. This is my 31st AGM and all 31 Chairmen have said the bypass for Thurles is a priority – yet here we are still trying to get it done. In Thurles we have articulated lorries going through the town day and night and we need to make Transport Infrastructure Ireland see a bypass for Thurles as a priority,” Cllr Ryan said.