Council Affairs: Everyone else is salting it, so why can’t we?

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

“EVERY other local authority gives out salt to businesses to grit the footpaths, so why can’t we? Now there’s a great name for an album title if ever I heard one.

On the fifth anniversary of the passing of Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan, Fine Gael councillor Dan McSweeney paid a bizarre homage to the Limerick group’s multi-million selling debut album.

At the Metropolitan District meeting on Monday before last, Cllr McSweeney also showed his true grit when he boldly played the ‘other Councils love their members more’ card.

“We need to look after our ratepayers. This is really not acceptable,” he huffed. “We need to get our act together.”

You couldn’t be up to them, really.

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Thankfully the executive are well clued into local representatives’ slippery ways.

After the recent cold spell, councillors were definitely skating on very thin ice when they came with their hands out looking for footpaths the length and breadth of the district to get their fair sprinkling of salt.

Labour Party councillor Elena Secas had a motion on this month’s agenda calling for footpaths in the city centre and other key locations, such as schools, shops, post offices, as well as roads in certain housing estates where their landscape warrants it, to be included in the Winter Maintenance plan.

That’s a hell of a lot of salt!

I mean, forget the fact that this was a discussion councillors already had with the council executive last month. These folks want their condiments and and they won’t be turned, despite being told only four weeks ago that the council didn’t have the resources or finances available to carry out this request.

Who says public representatives don’t pay attention at meetings?

Have they the heads in the clouds or is it away with the fairies they are altogether?

It’s well for ye with yer finely buttered scones, but what will we put on our chips?

“During the cold weather in December, people contacted me to say that they missed hospital appointments, the train, work, and other important commitments because they couldn’t leave their estate,” Cllr Secas told council members.

Not a woman to pepper her words, the City East representative claimed there were estates, such as Kilbane and Foxhollow in Castletroy, where motorists really needed to crawl around corners during icy weather because the road conditions were so dangerous.

“In December last, I had reports of cars stuck on the road, bad skids, burst tyres, falls, so I am urging the Council to include in the Winter Maintenance Plan all strategic footpath locations and certain housing estates where their landscape makes it very difficult and dangerous for people to get out in icy road conditions,” she added.

Folks, the Friday evening Luigi’s or Donkey Fords treat will never be the same again if this lot get their way. Especially as Cllr Secas had plenty of support from the chamber, who would have gladly discussed this hot topic until the cows slid all the way back home.

Seconding the motion, Labour Party man Conor Sheehan pointed out that a lot of elderly people in locations such as St Mary’s Park and Kileely were particularly impeded by the big freeze at Christmas. He even suggested that, if councillors had access to some salt, they could go and grit some of the footpaths themselves.

Pothole politicians, indeed!

Cllr Elisa O’Donovan also took up the cause, posting on Twitter that same evening to warn her followers to be careful in the treacherous weather conditions after taking “a wallop of a fall” herself.

Thankfully she managed to stay upright long enough earlier that day to show her support to this timely motion for gritting footpaths in the city centre and other key areas at the Council meeting.

Cllr O’Donovan proposed that the Council seek funding from the TFI (Transport for Ireland) and the Minister for Transport to grit Limerick footpaths.

“The city centre needs the provision of salt for gritting, particularly at Christmas,” the Social Democrat councillor said.

Green Party councillor Sean Hartigan commended the council members’ support for Active Travel and suggested that a record of black-spots be kept for future reference.

Fine Gael councillor Sarah Kiely was also of the view that the council should stake out the most troublesome black-spots and then later send out their best men to de-ice them. Only the best for Cllr Kiely.

A written response from Senior Engineer Hugh McGrath was then read to councillors.

“With approximately 4,000km of roadway in County Limerick, it is not possible to treat all the County roads as part of Limerick City and County Council’s normal Winter Maintenance programme.

“Priority is given to the National Strategic Regional Road Network, which carries the most intensive volumes of commuter traffic,” Mr McGrath explained.

For the salty councillors of Limerick, this simply wouldn’t do.

Shur this, councillors fumed, is the exact same response they were given when they asked the same question a month ago.

But in fairness to them, they wanted salt and wouldn’t let up until they got it. Senior Engineer Hugh McGrath (looking like a man well practiced in Homer Simpson’s art of “dancing bears”) was summoned to join the meeting online where he agreed to further talks with councillors to see what could be done going forward.

You see Cllr McSweeney, there’s no need to argue.