Cash-stricken Cork County Council cannot afford to fix some of the “appalling” and “impassable” roads on its seven inhabited islands.
The council delivered the news just weeks after published a document aimed at improving island life.
A joint community council had been set up to lobby for better conditions for islands. However, its request to improve roads was shot down yesterday when council officials said it was too expensive to carry out major works on offshore locations.
Unlike other parts of the county, the council is burdened with the extra cost of paying for road repair machinery to be transported to the islands, and ferries, it was claimed, were not always available.
The last major roadworks programme on the islands — Bere, Cape Clear, Sherkin, Whiddy, Long, Heir, and Dursey — was carried out between 2005 and 2008, but it was paid for by central government.
“People who live in sparsely populated areas are being treated as second class citizens,” said Cllr Donal O’Rourke. “We’re abandoning the roads in rural areas. The further away from Cork City the worse the road network becomes.”
The Fianna Fáil councillor yesterday told the council’s western division meeting in Clonakilty: “The EU put policies in place to prevent marginalisation like this.”
His party colleague, Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan pointed out the irony of a couple of weeks ago, when elected members were told the council was fully behind helping the islanders.
“Now we’re hearing we won’t be able to respond to their wish list and that’s very disappointing,” he said.
Cllr Dermot Sheehan (FG) told colleagues that last month he had met with Transport Minister Leo Vardakar and urged him to put in place special funding for such work on the islands.
“The current system is that the council’s local area offices carry the financial burden for such works. I propose we write a letter requesting special funding be provided,” said Cllr Sheehan.
Cllr Danny Crowley (FF) pleaded with officials to set aside some money to repair the roads. “Some roads in Whiddy Island and Bere Island are actually appalling. Some of the roads are impassable,” he said.
Cllr Jerry O’Sullivan (FG) said he understood extra expense was involved in maintaining the islands’ roads but said there should be more emphasis on providing the islanders services instead of curtailing them.
Cllr Adrian Healy (FG) said: “The islanders’ biggest concerns are the deterioration of their roads. We should also contact the minister in charge of the islands, Jimmy Deenihan to get some funding.”
Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) said the islands were “the jewel of the crown in terms of our tourism industry”.
He said it was therefore vital roads were maintained and it was agreed to write to both ministers seeking appropriate funding.
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