Ambulance crews have warned that county roads in Cork are in such a bad condition that it is taking longer to transport seriously ill patients to hospital.
Roads are so poor in some areas that ambulance crews have to “slow to a crawl” to transport patients, particularly if they have a suspected spinal injury, a meeting of Cork County Council was told yesterday.
Standing orders were suspended at a meeting in County Hall after Independent councillor John Paul O’Shea raised the issue. He said rural roads throughout the county had rapidly deteriorated in recent weeks because “the weather had gone from extreme rain to extreme cold”.
Mr O’Shea said the local authority had acknowledged this on social media but hadn’t yet asked roadworkers to do overtime to address the issue — he demanded this was now done.
“I’m getting pictures sent to me every day of cratered roads in East Cork,” said Independent councillor Mary Linehan-Foley.
“Our roads are falling away. I’m being told continuously that we don’t have the staff to fix them. We should take on more staff as a matter of urgency.”
Independent councillor Timmy Collins described the condition of some roads in North Cork as “scandalous”.
Fine Gael councillor Kevin Murphy said he had seen several photographs of roads in the Bandon and Kinsale areas which were in a dire state and pot-marked with craters.
“We need a blitz on pothole filling,” he said. “We need to get staff out on overtime, otherwise there are going to be massive claims from motorists for damage to their cars.”
Sinn Féin councillor Paul Hayes said he had received messages from ambulance crews operating in the West Cork area who were very concerned about the state of some roads because it was delaying them getting patients to Cork University Hospital.
He said time wasted could cost lives and had been told that roads were so poor in some places that ambulances had to slow to a crawl.
“Our engineers in West Cork are collating the damage done by recent storms and will shortly present it to Tom Stritch, our director of roads,” he said.
Mr Hayes pointed out that motorists in the county pay over €100m in road tax every year, but the county council gets back just €40m of that from central government for road maintenance.
“We have the longest road network [12,000km] of any county,” said Fianna Fáil councillor Frank O’Flynn. “The economy is getting better, so we should get extra funding from the Government to employ more road workers.”
Fine Gael councillor Michael Hegarty said that since 2008, the council had lost half its roads staff and had its road budget slashed in half. “Until the Government grasp that, we are in serious trouble,” he said.
Mayor of County Cork Declan Hurley said council staff are doing the best they can.
“They’re doing firefighting. Our roads have been starved of funding for the last 10 years. It’s unacceptable.
"Everybody paying their motor tax, in my view, is being robbed and it’s unacceptable that emergency services are being slowed down because of the state of the roads,” he said, adding that he would personally write to Transport Minister Shane Ross seeking emergency funding.
The council’s deputy chief executive, Declan Daly, said he would be open to prioritising road repairs in areas requested by the emergency services.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved