North Tipperary based Minister of State Alan Kelly has been accused of engaging in “blatant, naked political opportunism” by trumpeting roads grants in letters to constituents and putting a positive spin on reduced roads funding allocated to South Tipperary over the past week.
The criticism has been levelled at the Minister of State in the Department of Transport by Independent TD Mattie McGrath, who pointed out that the annual funding to improve the county’s national, regional and local roads is substantially lower than last year.
And deputy McGrath accused the Labour minister of wasting tax payers money and the time of his staff by sending letters to residents throughout South Tipperary informing them of the funding secured for upgrading or repairing roads in their community.
Minister Kelly announced this week that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport had allocated E9.2m to South Tipperary Co. Council for the restoration and maintenance of regional and local roads in the county. This funding included E535,000 for a new link road in Tipperary town.
And last week, he announced E1.13m National Roads Authority funding for national roads in South Tipperary this year.
This funding includes the financing of safety works on the N24 Ballinderry Bend, on the N24 Pill Road Railway Bridge and the N24 Toureen Cross as well as improvements to the N8 Castletown/Mitchestown road and a Traffic Calming Scheme at the N74 at Thomastown.
Minister Kelly, in press statement, announcing the E19m funding for regional and local roads throughout Co. Tipperary this year, declared he was delighted his Department was in a position to provide these funds for road works in Tipperary.
“This follows a recent grant of nearly E4 million from the National Roads Authority meaning that well over E23 million will be spent on Tipperary roads this year. ]
“In the current economic climate when we don’t have as much money as we want, Tipperary is doing very well,” he stated.
The Minister of State acknowledged in the statement that the road network in Tipperary requires serious levels of investment but pledged: “While we do no have as much funding as we like, I am working night and day in my Department to make sure Tipperary gets as much investment as possible from the Department.”
Deputy Mattie McGrath said the funding Minister Kelly was trumpeting was allocated annually to South Tipperary Co. Council and accused him of “spinning” the news of the funding allocations to make them sound better than they were.
“This guy is blowing his trumpet but the funding is much less than last year, there are cutbacks to staff and more damage done to the roads around the county compared to last year,” he complained.
The Newcastle TD also complained that constituents had informed him about receiving letters from Minister Kelly informing them of funding allocations to improve roads in their community.
Residents living three to four miles from the Goatenbridge to Newcastle Road had received letters from the Minister of State informing them that funding had been allocated to install a road safety barrier along the road.
“People who never heard of Minister Kelly are getting letters from him,” Deputy McGrath declared. “It’s blatant, naked political opportunism.”
The Independent TD condemned the issuing of the letters as a waste of tax payers money as well as waste of the time of those employed by Minister Kelly, who was obviously doing this to boost his chances of re-election in view of the impending unification of the North and South Tipperary Dail constituencies.
Peter Britton, Senior Executive Engineer South Tipperary Co. Council, welcomed the funding from NRA and the Department of Transport but confirmed that it was lower than last year.
He confirmed that the E9.2m the Council has been allocated for regional and local roads was approximately E1m lower than the allocation the Council received last year. The grant for restoration improvements works was down E780,000 while the grant for restoration maintenance works was down E270,000.
And the Council received E3.84m in NRA funding for roads last year compared to the E1.13m funding announced for 2013.
Mr Britton pointed out that all counties had been hit by the funding cuts and it had been expected due to the Government’s lack of funds.
He said it was very unfortunate that the funding was down because the Co. Council never needed the money to repair damaged roads as badly as it does now.
Mr Britton estimated it will take multiples of the funding the Council has received to sort out the county’s road problems.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes described the funding allocated for the construction of a new link road for Tipperary town to alleviate traffic congestion in the town as a “red letter day” for the local community.
“The major traffic congestion in Tipperary town, especially at weekends has been evident for years. This has caused huge problems for businesses in the town,” he said. “Construction of the link road will finally tackle the traffic congestion, which for too long has caused major disruption to the daily and commercial life of the town. The funding for the new link road is a massive boost for future traffic management in the town,” he added