Funding has been found to create a footpath outside a Laois secondary school – but there is considerable anger over the allocation from a scheme that should have been used to do it.
The issue arose when Councillor Paschal McEvoy asked the council to provide a footpath from the ‘new houses on the Stradbally Road to the school in Timahoe’.
However, he was told by Diarmuid Donohoe, Senior Executive Engineer in the Active Travel Office, that this was not possible.
He said: “The NTA has not provided funding under Active Travel Scheme for the delivery of this in 2023.”
Cllr McEvoy accepted that the application had come too late for this year but explained this had only become a problem in recent weeks.
Up to now, the children from these houses would walk down the road along the ditch and in the gate of the parochial house.
They would then continue down along the headland inside the ditch and into the school.
The children have always been forced out on the road from the estate to the parochial house. This been an issue for years but has been compounded by the sale of the parochial house.
Once it goes, children will no longer have entry to it and will be forced to walk from the estate to the school out on the road.
This, according to Cllr McEvoy, is on a dangerous downhill bend where it is very tight if cars meet.
He said: “We are talking about a 500 metre stretch of road on a bad turn.
“The Parish house is up for sale and a new entrance has been created to that property.
“Now we have a crazy situation where there is safety issue as the entrance the children had been using was blocked off.
“Eventually, this site will be sold and the children will have no access whatsoever.
“Their safety is what is at risk here and we cannot leave this meeting without a resolution.”
Each of the three Municipal Districts in the county receives €25,000 to spend at their discretion and Councillor McEvoy pleaded with his colleagues for this money to be spent on the footpath.
This was eventually agreed to but only after a thorough discussion on where the budget for the Active Travel Scheme is spent was had.
In figures published for 2023, €3.3 million has been allocated for Laois and Fine Gael Councillor Aisling Moran explained in detail how it is being split – and she was not happy.
She told how 77% of the budget is going to the Portlaoise Municipal area, 12% is going to Borris-In-Ossory/Mountmellick and 8.2% is on staff salaries.
It means that just 2.3% – or €76,000 – has been allocated for the Graiguecullen-Portarlington area.
Cllr Moran said: “This is an absolute disgrace and I want to know who decided the budget.
“I want a breakdown of all of the projects and how the money is going to be spent.
“By population, we should be receiving €1.089 million and instead our area is receiving a fraction of that.
“All of the money is going to Portlaoise and it is simply not good enough.”
Councillors PJ Kelly, Aidan Mullins, Ben Brennan, Padraig Fleming and Paschal McEvoy agreed with what Cllr Moran had said – with Cllr McEvoy branding the allocation ‘insulting’.
They agreed to take the matter to the full meeting of Laois County Council which will take place later this month.
Cllr Moran then initially objected to using the discretionary funding to carry out the work in Timahoe – on the basis that they would be ‘letting the council off the hook’.
She said: “That money should be coming from the Council, not from us.
“If we do this, we are letting them off the hook.”
However, Cllr Moran eventually agreed but on the proviso that the six Councillors would would work together to recoup this money – something all of them agreed on.
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