Limerick Active Travel spat moves up a gear

Fianna Fáil TD Willie O'Dea (left) with Limerick Cycling Campaign Chairman Conor Buckley.

FIANNA Fáil TD Willie O’Dea has hit back at claims by the chairman of the Limerick Cycling Campaign (LCC) that he is sabotaging the proposed South Circular Road to City Centre Active Travel Scheme.

LCC chairman Conor Buckley complained to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste Micheál Martin, and Transport Minister Eamon Ryan about Deputy O’Dea’s opposition to the scheme.

In a letter to the three Coalition party leaders, Mr Buckley claimed that Deputy O’Dea is sabotaging the policy objectives of his own Government and that his stance is “anti-climate, anti-worker, anti-job creation and anti-family”.

“While Limerick Council, its Active Travel Team, and councillors from all three Government parties have engaged constructively to ensure Active Travel projects proceed to improve our city, Deputy O’Dea’s actions have hampered their continued progress,” Mr Buckley added.

“To speak very plainly, Deputy O’Dea is working in direct opposition to Government policy in a way that will block key healthcare workers from reaching their workplace in UHL.”

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The Fianna Fáil TD completely refutes Mr Buckley’s comments and accused him of “resorting to ludicrous personalised attacks on me instead of dealing with the substance of the issue”.

“To say that I am working to block key healthcare workers from reaching their workplace in UHL is simply ridiculous, not to mention mind-bogglingly stupid, and portrays a certain desperation as the voting date approaches.

He is playing the man instead of the ball,” Deputy O’Dea commented.

“I wonder how the UHL workers are getting to work at present? Are they currently being blocked from proceeding along O’Connell Avenue or South Circular Road? This is just utter nonsense from Mr Buckley and it reveals a very poor ability to articulate a reasonable argument in favour of the South Circular Road cycling lane.”

Deputy O’Dea maintains that the crux of the issue is that Mr Buckley and his colleagues in the cycling lobby are trying to “ram through a cycle path in an old, established, inappropriate location that has the potential to make the everyday lives of the elderly and disabled residents almost intolerable just because of ideology”.

“The cycling lobby doesn’t want to know about democracy and the 90 per cent of local residents who are completely opposed to this cycle path. They obviously believe that if public consultation produces a result that doesn’t suit them, then the process should be duly ignored. There’s a word for that and it’s called dictatorship.

“There is a reasonable compromise proposed by the residents and I am urging all councillors to support this compromise solution.”

Weighing in firmly on the side of Mr Buckley, Limerick Green Party TD Brian Leddin warned that Limerick may lose out on future funding opportunities if they do not show “ambition” and said  that the South Circular Road scheme should be implemented precisely as planned.

He added that if Limerick is “seeking to water down or essentially neutralise the impact of the infrastructure”, then the city will lose out on future funding allocations. If another local authority has a project and says it wants to do it fast, then the Minister and the Government will look more favourably on that”.

LCC have called on local councillors to be brave and show their support for the delivery of the South Circular Road Active Travel Scheme without interruptions to the proposed cycle track.

Mr Buckley believes that to remove the cycle track from any section of the scheme in favour of a small number of private on-street parking spaces, goes against Limerick’s recently ratified transport strategy.

“It goes against national climate action policy and it goes against the students, workers, and families that will benefit from this active travel corridor. This route will connect the communities and workplaces of Raheen, Dooradoyle, and Mungret to the city centre,” he said.

A decision on the future of the project is expected on February 20.