Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin with members of the local community in Ardfinnan.
Ardfinnan welcomed Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin to the village on Tuesday morning to meet with some of the locals and sympathise with the issues that are arising due to the ongoing single lane of traffic going over the historic bridge which connects both sides of the village.
Deputy Martin arrived in the village to over 20 people awaiting his arrival who were just a handful of the huge amount of people whose everyday lives are being disrupted by the traffic lights in the village.
Mr Martin stressed how Cllr Micheál Anglim and TD Jackie Cahill had been “anxious” for him to come down and he felt himself that it was “important to meet the interest in the community.”
The principal of Ardfinnan National School, Mairead Condon, and business man Jimmy Brett were both present to express their concerns over the current health and safety issues in place with the traffic lights.
Chaos continues on a daily basis in the village, even when Ardfinnan National School has closed its doors for the summer holidays. Mr Martin visited Brett Brothers and the primary school to see the key issues that needed to be highlighted. Huge loads are coming in and out of Bretts with delays and traffic congestion making it very difficult for the business to operate safely and efficiently as it always would have before.
Mairead Condon, who is experiencing the mayhem every single day of the school year emphasised how Ardfinnan must be “the only school in Ireland where traffic speeds up on both sides.” This is an obvious safety concern when it comes to school hours as people rush to make it through the lights, putting vulnerable children at risk every single day.
Mr Martin agreed that the "school heightens safety concerns."
After walking across the bridge and meeting the passionate members of the village who are fed up with the system that is currently in place, Micheál Martin agreed that he felt there was no alternative to the bridge issue apart from two lanes being kept open with a safe pedestrian bridge.
He described Ardfinnan’s stunning scenery which is steeped in history as an “area of natural beauty” and feels it is necessary to “bring life back into rural Ireland” as there is thriving business here but the bridge is currently not fit for this business. As Ardfinnan Bridge suffers, so does the River Suir flowing beneath it. There is a Blueway crying out to be used, but changing lights and an infuriating single lane of traffic makes all the difference in determining who is coming into the village to use these amenities.
When it comes to the importance of it for the village, the message of Mr Martin’s visit was loud and clear – we need to take action. “If we are committed to rural Ireland, these are the things we need to commit to” were words that particularly struck a chord with me as Mr Martin spoke.
For many people, this bridge - a stunning, ageing structure, is our main access in and out of the village and we cannot do without it functioning fully.
TD Jackie Cahill agreed, as he stated that “if this village will have vitality going forward, an independent walkway is paramount.” And Cllr Siobhan Ambrose believes that “everybody is 1000%” behind this walkway.
Cllr Anglim, a committed and strong voice for the community of Ardfinnan firmly believes that “If we get the independent walkway, it will hopefully be a bridge to better times.” And during that moment I could not help but stare around the room of the Community Hall at all of the people who had come together and taken time out of their day to make sure these better times are indeed approaching and to give Ardfinnan, a beautiful rural village boasting economic potential and an admirable sense of welcome and community, the credit that it is, and always has been due.