Fr Moore, who chairs the Piltown Fiddown Bypass Action Group, stated that the losses of life and serious injuries recorded on the troublesome stretch of the N24 “has led to terrible hardship and agony in the lives of many people…numerous lives have been snatched away, and dreams and aspirations have been denied to so many people because of these deaths”.
The locality has been “unjustly deprived of loved ones and a horrible void now exists in many homes that will never, ever be filled, and this is the feeling of people in the area. I’ve been called out on so many accidents, and I cannot describe the feeling of hurt, agony and tramua that people have gone through: words cannot adequately capture that sense of loss. The people of this area feel that something is radically wrong with the bypass, that so many people have died on this particular section of road. And, to be honest, the people feel ignored.”
Addressing the meeting at the Piltown Community Centre, Fr Moore replied to the notion of why this road ought to be given priority ahead of other road projects.
He stated: “The way I feel about it, and the way a lot of other people do too is, well, imagine the television man coming to your house to repair the television and if it’s not right, then he has to come back and fix it, and that’s the way the people feel here: if the bypass is not right, then it has to be fixed. People don’t want a quick fix job, the bypass requires a radical overhaul, and we cannot forget those who have been injured along the bypass in accidents either, those who have been maimed for life, including a person who has been brain damaged, which is both shocking and sad. When people go out on the bypass, families worry…and that shows the fear that is there about motorists accessing the road: that they may not necessarily come home.”
Fr Moore told Minister Ross: “Sometimes, when people are in power, and I know this from scripture, they can become disconnected; they can become blind and deaf, blind to the real issues of people, and deaf to sufferings, so your presence here gives us a great glimmer of hope and we appreciate that you’ve taken the time to come here and listen.”
Adding some context for the Minister’s benefit, Deputy John McGuinness (FF) said the public meeting held in the same building in relation to the bypass last December (attended by 500 locals), represented “the most constructive public meeting that I have seen on an issue on all of my time in politics”.
Deputy McGuinness told the meeting: “And everyone had the same story in relation to the bypass, the same fears and the same demands in terms of the radical overhaul that this bypass clearly needs and has needed, unfortunately, going right back to its initial design.”
Action Group Secretary Robert Duggan cited the installation of more than one flyover on the N24 as part of the long-term solution to the bypass’s long-standing problems, adding: “We need more than signs that tell us the road is dangerous; we already have those.”
Stressing the Group’s drive for “positive engagement” with both Kilkenny County Council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), Mr Duggan cited the other local groups which “had been working on this issue for the past 20 years – there’s been dissatisfaction about this road right from the beginning”.
Stating that some “good short term fixes” had been proposed for the route, “but ultimately we want a long term fix – now, we’re also cognisant that these short term fixes might ameliorate some of the risks on the road, and we’re appreciative of that. But this community wants to see action and positive changes brought about when it comes to the bypass.”
With the N25 New Ross Bypass proceeding rapidly, and with the N24 believed now earmarked for a long-awaited upgrade between Cahir and Limerick (which would also improve access to the M8 Cork-Dublin motorway), addressing the N24 between Mooncoin and Carrick-on-Suir will have to be addressed in due course.
Both towns have long been earmarked for bypassing for many years, and there’s a clear logic to potentially bypassing both towns in tandem with the N24 upgrade, thus improving access from Rosslare to Limerick, as well as between Waterford and Cork cities.
Said Robert Duggan: “We are probably alone in the country in having a national route which is funnelled into a single lane in two places (due to the ‘Two and One’ lane system), which effectively converts the road into a race track, as cars regularly try to get ahead of each other when forced into the single lane, a short term measure which was intended to overcome some of those dangerous junctions, but those junctions, the Tower Junction in particular, remains dangerous and is the chief reason we’re all sitting here, discussing this…We see collisions at this junction every single month, on average, yet this (level of incident) hasn’t been reflected in any significant movement, up to now, in the plan to fix this junction.”
Mr Duggan told Minister Ross that the Action Group wishes to meet with TII “to express our concerns and to seek a permanent solution because they are the ones ultimately in control when it comes to this”.
Local resident Jim Kinsella told Minister Ross that the very meeting room they were sitting in had been the location, 22 years previously, where the community first caught sight of the original bypass schematics.
“A load of people in the community, back then, knew that the junctions we’ve seen so many deaths, injuries and accidents at since, were going to be dangerous, and we got nowhere. The design of the road ended up being a disaster, an ‘engineering fiasco’ as John (McGuinness) has described it more than once. But nobody has come back to fix it properly.”
Mr Kinsella added: “And we still have the two and one system, in which you have two kilometres to get ahead, and at the end of that stretch, you have a major right-turn junction in one direction at the Tower Road, as well as at Turkstown. There are 13 junctions along this bypass, and everyone living here at the time it was being designed, told those responsible that they had it wrong, that the wrong roads had been targeted. We had a Category A road and several Category B roads, yet despite that, a muddy ‘boreen’ got a full flyover. We’re not being wise after the fact here.”
Said Jim Kinsella: “People living here in this community saw at the time that the design was wrong and we told the engineer, here in the next room, before a sod was turned, that this bypass was designed for death. We knew how busy this area was, and still is, with Carrick and Clonmel so near by, and Waterford city as well, and we’ve all known the problems at Tybroughney at one end of the bypass, and Turkstown at the other, along with the bad bends outside Mooncoin.”
“Short term solutions are no good to us: a flyover at the Tower Road junction would mean thousands of cars would no longer be crossing the road, and now that the upgrade of the N24 is being discussed, there’s an opportunity to get something done properly here. Both the Mooncoin and Carrick bypasses are long designed and are top spec; there are eight schools that walk straight out onto the N24, between Mooncoin and Carrick-on-Suir…if we get those bypasses done and realign our own bypasses, and I know I’m probably talking about years here, then those eight schools would be taken out of the equation and a lot of children would have better safety levels, and you’d also have 10 junctions taken totally out of the equation. We’re not engineers, we know this is up to the TII, but what I’ve outlined there surely has to be part of the long term solution. We need joined-up thinking on this. This engineering fiasco has to be tackled as we want Piltown and Fiddown to be safer.”
Minister Ross said that the committee’s case “was very strong” and that he will recommend a meeting between members of the committee and TII in due course.