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Independent.ie

Monday 23 July 2018

Clare 'meitheal' on right track

UNITED: Some of the 40 local volunteers level council-supplied gravel to construct the 2km of footpath through the village of Ogonnelloe, Co Clare
UNITED: Some of the 40 local volunteers level council-supplied gravel to construct the 2km of footpath through the village of Ogonnelloe, Co Clare
UNITED: Some of the 40 local volunteers level council-supplied gravel to construct the 2km of footpath through the village of Ogonnelloe, Co Clare
Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien

In these straitened times there are a thousand things in every community that need to be done and, while there's no shortage of goodwill, there's no money to do them.

A community in east Clare recently put this abundance of goodwill and the limited resources of Clare County Council together to resolve an ongoing need in the locality.

Ogonnelloe, a rural village on the shores of Lough Derg, is situated on two sides of a busy road linking Killaloe and Scarriff. Over the years, a crying local need identified by all sections of the community was the need for a footpath through the village so that people could walk in safety from one end to the other, a distance of almost 2km.

"It's a treacherous piece of road without hard shoulder or footpath," explained Michael McNamara of the local Community Council.

"For children, and indeed adults, walking to the school, the GAA ground and to St Molua's church was a hazard."

At the suggestion of local parish priest, Fr Donagh O'Meara and a parishioner working in Clare Co Council, an approach was made to the local authority to develop a partnership approach to the problem.

A broad plan was agreed whereby the council would provide the raw materials for a pathway if the locals provided the labour and equipment.

"It is not as simple as it sounds," Michael said. "We approached the local area engineer and our first task was to assure the council that we had the capacity to do this work competently and safely. In that regard traffic management and public safety was a key concern."

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A working group was put together and it quickly emerged that all the skills needed for the job were to be found in the community.

"We knew we had a wide range of skill sets available to us," said committee member, Peadar Casey. "First of all, the locals are not afraid of hard work, we have people with experience in construction, machinery operation, project management, civil engineering and health and safety."

A voluntary project team was appointed that included a project leader, a health and safety officer, a clerk of works, while a man with skills in traffic signage and traffic management was hired. When all this was in place a work plan was agreed with the council and the call went out for volunteer labour.

On Saturday, October 5 a meitheal of up to 40 locals in high-viz jackets converged on the roadside carrying an array of shovels, brushes, briar hooks, chainsaws, rakes and various other implements.

More volunteers arrived with tractors and trailers, diggers and the all-important vibrating roller. Waiting for them was 1,300m of ditch to be cleared and dug, 440t of council-supplied gravel to be laid down and a set of temporary traffic lights and traffic signage to be erected.

The work took two Saturdays, a few meitheals of workers and generous supplies of sustenance, including two full dinners provided by local households.

"Thankfully, we had fine days and plenty of help. We laid down 1,300m of pathway and already it has made a huge difference, especially to the children walking to school and to people who just want to take a walk through their own village," Michael commented.

Irish Independent