While the long-awaited motorway to Dublin nears completion, it’s been nigh on impossible to ignore the deterioration of many secondary and lesser ranked routes not only in the county but throughout the south east.
The quality of many of our smaller roads (to be more precise, the lack thereof) has been exacerbated by the recent spell of dreadful weather.
Here’s an exercise: enter ‘AA Roadwatch’ and ‘Potholes’ into an internet search engine.
Following that, take a minute to observe all of the subsequent matches and one can see how big an issue, something Niall Tobin once made fun of, has once again become.
And while it may rank at the extreme end of the bad road scale, the asphalt-breached, pothole-ridden Ballycashin Hill has served to indicate just how bad things have got in many areas of the south east.
Watching cars negotiate the potch-marked road last Thursday, 24 hours after Waterford City Council was forced to temporarily close the route, thoughts turned to those living along the road.
Outside one house in particular, where the surface had completely ruptured across its entire width, the thought of trying to exit that drive, literally a stroll from a dual carriageway, had the mind boggling.
But, in the vast majority of instances, the poor secondary road problem is a rural issue, one which IFA Countryside focused on last year through its Rural Roads Campaign.
Speaking last February, IFA Countryside’s David Wilkinson stated: “The deteriorating condition of many secondary rural roads, with some of them hardly drivable, has the potential to damage local economies and cost jobs in rural communities.
“However, this pales in significance to the very serious risk of accident and injury that rural road users encounter on a daily basis trying to avoid potholes and collapsing verges.”
What Mr Wilkinson said 11 months ago applies equally if not more so today, according to IFA Countryside colleague John Cronin.
“Noel Dempsey has already made it clear that there will be no additional funding made available to local authorities for works on rural roads, works made all the more necessary by the freezing weather over the past month,” he said.
Speaking to The Munster Express, Mr Cronin said that the Transport Minister’s adamant message was yet another kick in the teeth for the rural community.
“You only had to look at the way the Dublin-based media reported on the ‘big freeze’ to get some indication of the scale of priority that’s given to those in the countryside, many of whom had been experiencing icy conditions for three to four weeks before Dublin had,” he said.
“Given the Minister’s statement last week and given the repeated knocks which rural Ireland, and not just our farmers, have received from Government over the past few years, it’s clear where the rural community ranks in both the policy-making and social order.”
So what can rural residents do to try and makes their concerns heard? “Letting Councillors and TDs know loudly and clearly that they are fed up being treated like second class citizens is a good start,” said John Cronin.
“Given that people working and living in the countryside drive considerably more than their urban counterparts out of necessity, be it for work, getting their groceries, etc, the case for better rural roads is undeniable.
“And that’s a case which every TD representing a predominantly rural community must make until that message is heard and translated into action.”
The need for a “concerted national effort” to highlight deteriorating, pothole ridden roads is one which IFA Countryside is committed to publicising, Mr Cronin added.
“That’s what we’re here for, and we’ll do everything we can to ensure that the funding rural communities deserve for the improvement of their road networks, is ultimately made available.”
A long fight, one of many the rural community must engage in, surely beckons, but it’s surely one worth taking to the powers that be, especially when livelihoods – and lives – are at stake.
For more call 1890-924-982 or log onto www.ifacountryside.ie