Lisa McDonald calls for proper catchment areas in Wexford – Wexford People, August 27 2016

‘Meaningful and proper catchment areas’ need to be introduced in order to resolve the problem concerning school transport according to Councillor Lisa McDonald.

Lisa, who has been campaigning over the difficulty to secure school places in Wexford, said that she has been speaking with several worried parents whose children have not been allocated a seat on the school bus. She said that this problem is directly linked to the fact that many students are being forced to attend school outside of their locality due to a lack of places.

‘If the government was to introduce meaningful and proper catchment areas, it would solve this problem,’ she said. ‘An awful lot of people want to send their children to schools in Wexford but they are being forced to send them to schools further afield.’

While Lisa believes that parents should have the choice on whether they send their child to school locally or elsewhere, she said that those residing within the vicinity of a school should get ‘first choice’ when it comes to school places, regardless of parental links.

In the meantime, she said that those who are being forced to travel outside of their area to attend school should have their transport funded by the government.

‘The TDs in the county need to get meeting with the Minister and Department and fund the buses for children who, through no fault of their own, are being forced to attend school outside of their area,’ she said.

‘To use a pun, Minister Bruton has missed the bus,’ she said. ‘There are no plans or joined up thinking in relation to this. If he wants to put his mark down, he should go and do what is right.’

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/lisa-mcdonald-calls-for-proper-catchment-areas-in-wexford-34986351.html)

Oylegate bypass may not go ahead despite earlier indications – Wexford People, July 9 2016

Plans to extend the M11 south of Oylegate after the completion of the Enniscorthy bypass appear to be ‘dead in the water’ according to Fianna Fail TD James Browne.

But the County Council remain hopeful that the project can proceed, despite the Fianna Fail deputy’s concerns.

Work on the proposed four km extension to the southern end of the M11 Enniscorthy Bypass was expected to begin at the end of 2018. However, in a letter from Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Deputy Browne was informed that the proposed Oylegate to Enniscorthy bypass road improvement scheme is not included in the Government’s capital investment plan from 2016 to 2021. It went on to say that ‘the further advancement of the proposed scheme cannot be accommodated in the national roads programme at present.’

‘The letter doesn’t just seem to be saying it won’t be advanced. It seems to be saying it’s not going in ahead. To me, it looks like it’s dead in the water,’ explained Deputy Browne, who received the letter after he put a parliamentary question to Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross.

‘I was under the impression that it was to go ahead following announcements during the General Election and articles I have read. However, the government have decided that it’s not part of their plans.’

Director of Services with Wexford County Council’s Road Department Eamonn Hore said that the extension was never part of the government plan but said that they are ‘quietly confident’ that it is still going ahead.

‘It never was part of the government plan. The contract is for the bypass of Enniscorthy but we have made the case that it doesn’t make sense to stop there. At the very least, it should stop after Oylegate,’ he said.

‘The TII agreed to fund the exploration if it,’ he continued. ‘On foot of the recommendations made by Wexford County Council, they have decided to look at it.

‘It’s definitely going to happen at some stage but we can’t put the money in place until we have examined the different routes.’

Mr Hore said that they are taking the process in steps and still hope to have the design and funding secured so that work will commence at the end of 2018.

Mr Hore said that it was not in their view that the extension had been scrapped, adding that he thinks wires have been crossed.

‘From every point of view it makes sense not to bring the dual carriageway to a halt north of Oylegate and we are being listened to. It was never in the programme.’

In February, County Manager Tom Enright announced that approval had been received from Transport Infrastructure Ireland that the M11 project could proceed beyond Oylegate. Speaking to this newspaper in June, he said he hoped that the proposed extension would get underway at the end of 2018. He went on to say that the county council was currently arranging the procurement of consultants to carry out the detailed design work for the extension, which will cost around €30 mn.

However, Deputy Browne was not hopeful following the TII response.

‘The bypass is necessary. If it doesn’t go ahead, Oylegate will be the only village or residential area between Belfast and the Rosslare Europort. This will mean a lot of cars and heavy goods vehicles will continue to travel through Oylegate.’

‘The village will effectively come to a standstill,’ added Deputy Browne, who said that he expects traffic jams similar to those in Enniscorthy to hit the village.

According to him, the village is already dealing with heavy traffic at certain times.

However, Oylegate-based councillor Willie Kavanagh doesn’t view the current traffic situation as an issue and said that he has not witnessed any traffic jams during his 40 years in the village. He said that, if the bypass doesn’t go ahead, he doesn’t expect traffic to increase.

As owner of The Slaney Inn, Cllr Kavanagh said the bypass will not affect his business whether or not it goes ahead, saying that most of his customers are local. However, he said it could have a huge hit on the local supermarket, restaurants and filling station in the village, which rely on visitors and passing motorists for trade.

However, according to Deputy Browne, scrapping the extension will have an impact on Oylegate and the wider community.

‘It is bound to have a knock-on effect for Wexford town. if there are serious transport problems for those travelling from Wexford to the airport and other places, it is going to have an impact on business.’

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/oylegate-bypass-may-not-go-ahead-despite-earlier-indications-34870325.html)

Oliver Walsh is new Enniscorthy Chairperson with Keith Doyle as vice – Enniscorthy Guardian, July 2 2016

Outgoing chairperson Cllr Paddy Kavanagh reflected on a ‘very busy year’ before he handed over his seat to Cllr Oliver Walsh.

Cllr Kavanagh thanked all of the members for their cooperation and help during his time as chairperson. Though he said there were many great events, he said there was one that stood out in his mind – the Monday of the 1916 commemorations.

‘I felt, as an Enniscorthy man, proud to represent you all on the day,’ he said. ‘It is one of the best days we have ever had.’

Cllr Kavanagh also said that a certificate presentation evening to descendants of those involved in the Rising was extremely successful.

‘People enjoyed and appreciated it as we did,’ he said. ‘It didn’t just happen. It was put there by the hard work of a lot of people. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for everything they did for Enniscorthy.’

Cllr Kathleen Codd Nolan proposed that Cllr Oliver Walsh be elected as the new chairperson, saying that he had ‘many years of experience’. Her proposal was seconded by Cllr Keith Doyle and passed without any rejections or further suggestions.

‘I hope to work for the betterment of Enniscorthy town and district,’ he said.

Cllr Willie Kavanagh proposed Cllr Keith Doyle as the Vice Chairman. His proposal was seconded by Cllr Barbara Anne Murphy and supported unanimously.

(First published in the Enniscorthy Guardian newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/enniscorthyguardian/news/oliver-walsh-is-new-enniscorthy-chairperson-with-keith-doyle-as-vice-34837682.html)

Arts officer seat remains vacant – Wexford People, June 23 2016

The seat for an Arts Officer in Wexford has been vacant since July 2015, despite an advertisement for the position last July and again in March 2016.

Following the departure of Arts Officer Rosaleen Molloy in June 2010, Sinead Barden was chosen as a replacement as the result of a competition. However, due to an employment embargo in public sector recruitment, this position was only temporary.

The post became vacant again in July 2015 and a call for applications was put out soon after. When no candidate was found, the position was readvertised on March 29 2016 but the position still remains unfilled.

Cllr Malcolm Byrne drew attention to the vacancy at the recent Wexford County Council meeting and later, highlighted the need to have it resolved as soon as possible.

‘It is a matter of emergency that we need an Arts Officer so that he or she can begin to develop a strategic arts development plan for the county,’ he said.

‘Wexford has always had the lead on the arts and it provides huge social and economic opportunities in the county. Given that we are bidding for the position to host the European Capital of Culture, it would be very unfortunate for one of the Three Sisters not to have an Arts Officer in place,’ he said.

Since July 2015, staff at the arts office have taken on some of the tasks that are usually carried out by the Arts Officer. Cllr Byrne commended them for their work.

‘I have to compliment the arts office staff who have been putting in trojan work over the last period. They haven’t let the side down.’

Cllr Byrne said that he understands that interviews will take place within the next fortnight and expects an announcement on a new officer to be made within the next four weeks.

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/arts-officer-seat-remains-vacant-34824182.html)

Cllr George Lawlor calls for movement on IT merger as part of University of the South East Plan – New Ross Standard, June 25 2016

Cllr George Lawlor sought support at last week’s Wexford County Council meeting to continue to push for a South East Technological University Project that includes the merger of Carlow and Waterford ITs.

Cllr Lawlor raised his concern at a section of a Fianna Fail Waterford briefing document that he received from someone he knew. He brought it to the attention of the councillors, saying that he was ‘taken aback’ when he read it. The paragraph suggested that a Waterford IT should seek University status without a merger and said that ‘it is difficult to understand the reasons why there is a need for WIT/ CIT to merge prior to application except as an attempt to rationalise the institutions’.

After reading the section of the document aloud at the meeting, Cllr Lawlor said that the person who provided it believed that the piece was also sent to Wexford and Carlow authorities.

‘I am asking for assurance that this project is ongoing,’ said Cllr Lawlor.

Councillor Michael Sheehan said the merger ‘needs to happen sooner rather than later.’

‘The Government should go further and appoint a president over the project,’ he said. ‘We can’t be in limbo for much longer. We have been 14 years in limbo.’

Councillor Davy Hynes said that it was vital for Wexford to have the university.

Cathaoirleach Cllr Tony Dempsey reassured the councillors, saying that he was pretty happy that the plan to merge the two ITs is still on track.

‘We need to be careful not to say anything to hurt the project,’ he said.

Cllr Oisin O’ Connell likened the ongoing discussions about the university plan to the relationship between Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind saying:

‘Will they get together, won’t they get together. I don’t care as long as something happens,’ he said. Cllr O’Connell said that they need to push for the university.

‘Before it’s gone with the wind,’ chimed in Cllr Paddy Kavanagh.

(First published in the New Ross Standard newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/newrossstandard/news/cllr-george-lawlor-calls-for-movement-on-it-merger-as-part-of-university-of-the-south-east-plan-34818400.html)

Work to start on houses that have been vacant for 20 years – Wexford People, June 8 2016

Work is soon to begin on two houses in Bride Street that have been left vacant for almost 20 years.

The issue of the derelict houses has been brought up at council meetings on many occasions by Cllr Davy Hynes, who said that they were an eyesore and a magnet for anti-social behaviour. In recent years, councillors were told that Wexford Borough Council was unable to take action due to legal difficulties.

Speaking on Monday, Cllr Hynes said that he understands that one of the houses is now in the possession of the council and that the other one will soon be in their hands.

‘Hopefully something will be done with them by the end of the year,’ he said. ‘I have been going on about them since I was elected and that is 19 years ago.’

Despite movement on the houses in Bride Street, the issue of derelict houses still remains elsewhere in the town. According to Cllr Hynes, four houses in Peter Street have been left vacant for ‘quite some time’.

‘This is a time when we need to be taking over vacant houses. I know there’s a lot of money involved but we have to do something. Some of them won’t have to be demolished, they just need some work done to them,’ he said. ‘With housing being a priority, we need to look at our options. Anything is better than what we have.’

Commenting on the houses in Peter Street, Cllr Hynes said they are bringing down the overall appearance of the area.

‘They take the look off the town. They have been left there and nothing is happening. The council need to be more vigilant about going after people who leave houses in this way.’

Cllr Hynes said he hopes to raise the issue of these houses at an upcoming council meeting.

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/work-to-start-on-houses-that-have-been-vacant-for-20-years-34782811.html)