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‘Are they more important in Portlaoise than out the country?’

Killenard school

News that Laois County Council won’t be providing footpath/cycle lanes from two Laois villages to the nearby GAA grounds was met with considerable frustration at the Graiguecullen-Portarlington Municipal District meeting this week.

Cllr PJ Kelly had asked for an update on a potential footpath from the Killenard national school to the O’Dempsey’s GAA pitch, something had been proposed and seconded at a meeting in September of last year.

However, the council responded by saying that the NTA (National Transport Authority) is “targeting schemes in highly populated areas where maximum benefit can be achieved from investment funding”.

The response was word-for-word identical to what Cllr Paschal McEvoy had received when he sought a somewhat similar clarification in relation to a project in Timahoe.

The response added that “this scheme does not meet the criteria for an Active Travel Scheme due to the current speed limit of 80km/h and low levels of daily usage”.

It was this point that particularly irked Cllr Kelly.

“The reason for the low level us usage is because there is no footpath,”he replied.

“The school has no football pitch and is 1.8km away. More than 520 people signed a petition pre 2022. When you drive around Portlaoise you can see footpaths you could park a lorry on.

“But it is what it is. 520 people – and they are adults, I’m not talking about just children – have signed a petition and they will be very disappointed.”

“The new buzz words are ‘Active Travel'” added Cllr Paschal McEvoy. “There are no sporting facilities used more than GAA pitches and O’Dempsey’s are a progressive club with great facilities.

“You couldn’t have children walking on that road – they could be killed stone dead. I can’t understand why the council aren’t jumping at this. It baffles me. They could have put in half of what is in Portlaoise over to O’Dempsey’s. Are they important in Portlaoise than they are out the country?”

And it was that urban-rural divide that the councillors latched on to.

“There’s money there for Portlaoise all the time. But there’s none for Timahoe and there’s none for O’Dempsey’s,” added Cllr Aidan Mullins. “And that’s not a criticism of Portlaoise.”

“There was €200,000 pulled from Timahoe. That’s not acceptable. The poor relations are out the country again.”

“There was €2 million in funding (in Laois) for the Active Travel and our area got €70,000,” said Aisling Moran.

“We want €2 million and let Portlaoise have €70,000. We want it spent in our area.

“Our area seems to get the least amount of money all the time. It needs to be fair. There is not a huge amount of difference in population and yet we are treated like the pauper cousins.”

Elsewhere Cllr Kelly called for the creation of a double lane exit from the national school in Emo onto the public road.

The response from Philip McVeigh, senior executive engineer, said that Laois County Council will meet with Cllr Kelly on site “to review the scope of works required”.

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