Piltown community grieves another lost life at Tower Road/N24 junction

“How many more lives will be lost before something is done,” Parish Priest Paschal Moore rhetorically commented on Monday, just hours after concelebrating the Requiem Mass of Denis Walsh who was killed in a road traffic accident at Piltown’s N24/Tower Road junction.

The mud-caked dividing markers at the N24 'Inkbottle' junction, which are now practically invisible at dusk or after nightfall

The mud-caked dividing markers at the N24 'Inkbottle' junction, which are now practically invisible at dusk or after nightfall

Speaking to The Munster Express, Fr Moore said the local community, taking in Piltown, Fiddown, Templeorum and Owning, had grown “weary of such tragedies”, the latest of which claimed the life of Mr Walsh on Wednesday.

“Several parishioners have taken to calling that particular junction ‘Deathtrap Junction’. The loss of Denis’s life there on Wednesday evening last was not the first at that particular location, sadly, and there have been several other serious, non-fatal accidents there over the past 10 to 15 years.

“And we don’t want any more lives lost. Enough is enough. And you’d have to wonder what it will take to have some remedial or long-term action at that junction: will a family have to be wiped out before the authorities take action which the local community has sought for years.”

Mr Walsh’s car came into collision with a lorry at 7.30pm approximately on Wednesday evening last, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

His remains were taken to the mortuary at University Hospital Waterford while the driver of the lorry, a man in his early 30s, received minor injuries.

The scene was preserved that night for a forensic collision investigation which took place on Thursday morning last, during which diversions were in place.

In response to the latest loss of life, a public meeting has been organised for Monday night next, December 12th, in Piltown Community Centre at 8pm, to which local Councillors have also been invited.

A detailed email by this newspaper has been sent to the office of Kilkenny County Council Roads Director Tim Butler, which was also forwarded to the locality’s TDs and Councillors, and we hope to have a statement from the Roads Office in time for next week’s edition.

Locals reacted with a mix of shock, sadness and resignation following last Wednesday night’s fatal accident.
“Twenty one years ago, when we lived in Fiddown, there was a very active committee who lobbied the politicians, the NRA and everyone else involved on the safety of the proposed (as it was then) bypass,” said Sheila Norris.

“They addressed the Council and did everything in their power to get the design changed. They were stonewalled on every aspect. Interesting fact, this is the only ‘New Road’ that was never officially opened. No politician would show their face to cut the ribbon. Yes, it needs to change but how many injuries or deaths does it require to reach the quota that pushed the powers that be into action? There are only two solutions.

One: close that junction completely. Two: put in a flyover. A lot of families would have been saved a lifetime of heartache and grief had either of these options been in effect from day one.”

Mary Kiely, who lives in Carrick-on-Suir, is one of many locals who has lost a loved one on this stretch of road over the past decade or more.

A modest bouquet of flowers at the Tower Road junction in Piltown, marking the spot where local man Denis Walsh lost his life on Wednesday last in a horrific road traffic collision.

A modest bouquet of flowers at the Tower Road junction in Piltown, marking the spot where local man Denis Walsh lost his life on Wednesday last in a horrific road traffic collision.

Mary Kiely posted the following: “My mother Sarah Kiely died at that junction and my sister also Sarah was lucky to escape with her life. A local man was convicted of dangerous driving causing my Mm’s death. That didn’t stop the junction being dangerous after that. At that time I contacted and discussed that junction with the then Garda commissioner Noel Conroy (who held the brief from 2003 to 2007). I also sent photos of it to the NRA, the RSA and I spoke at length with Sue Nunn on Kilkenny Radio about it. I also did an interview with my sister Sarah for the Irish Independent again highlighting the dangers on the road. All my efforts fell on deaf ears and closed doors. The powers that be don’t want to know.”

Fr Moore spoke of the need for action at the junction, and for other improvements along the Piltown-Fiddown Bypass, during the homily he delivered at Mr Walsh’s Requiem Mass.

“I felt I could not let the occasion pass by without offering some comment, given how widespread the discussion has been throughout our parish over this past, sad week. This bypass, from its construction and, sadly, ever since, has been associated with too much death, too much needless loss of life. I myself no longer use this junction; I feel it’s too dangerous, the way in which a driver, coming onto the main road from below the tower, has to look left, look right, then look left and right again and, in my view, regularly have to take a risk when turning, particularly when turning right towards Carrick. And at night, when it is even more difficult to assess the distance of a vehicle in either direction, I feel you’re taking your life into your own hands when using that junction. Now, I just go the other way, and take the flyover at Fiddown, if I am driving into Carrick. It’s only an extra few minutes on me, and I feel safer driving that way.”

Should the Tower Road junction be closed, thus preventing drivers coming from Fiddown from entering the N24 below them?

“Well, I’m not an engineer, and it will be discussed at next Monday night’s meeting, but I would feel that’s a view which is shared by more than a few people.”

Locals have also expressed concern with the ‘Two and One’ laneway system on the bypass, given that is unlit and currently offers poor reflection given that the markers are “caked in mud,” said Fr Moore. “They’re in disgraceful condition.”

The ‘Inkbottle’ junction, less than a mile away, features a filter lane for right-turning vehicles, but the markers which divide the N24 from the filter lane are practically invisible at present and haven’t been cleaned for months.

Mr Walsh (who was in his 70s), with an address at Jamestown, Piltown, is survived by his son Gabriel (47), siblings and extended family. His remains were interred in Templeorum Church on Monday morning following Requiem Mass. May he Rest In Peace.

Gardaí have appealed for witnesses who were on the N24 between 7.15pm and 7.30pm on Wednesday last to come forward and contact Thomastown Garda Station on 056-7754150, the Garda Confidential Line 1800-666-111 or local Gardaí.

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