Councillors angry over N81 meeting
TDs to meet with officials today over upgrade
Members of Baltinglass Municipal District are upset at having been left out of a meeting taking place between Wicklow TDs, the Department of Transport and the National Transport Authority (NTA).
The meeting to discuss the decision to shelve the upgrade of the N81 takes place today (Wednesday, June 13) and will be attended by all five of Wicklow's TDs and their aides. However, the only local Councillors present will be Cllr Vincent Blake, as cathaoirleach of Baltinglass Municipal District, and Cllr Gerry O'Neill, who is the chairman of the N81 Group.
Cllr Tommy Cullen has accused Wicklow TDs of playing 'political football' by excluding Councillors who have been pushing the issue for the past number of years.
'It's disappointing that the members of Baltinglass Municipal District weren't invited. Local councillors know what is going on locally and for 20 years I have been pushing for an upgrade of the N81. I think our TDs are playing political football because they took their eye off the ball and didn't even notice the upgrade had been suspended a couple of years ago. It's like closing the door after the horse has gone. Cllr Edward Timmins is the Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council and even he wasn't even invited,' said Cllr Cullen.
Last month, Baltinglass Municipal District requested the attendance of representatives from the Department and NTA at last month's meeting so the N81 upgrade could be discussed, but the invitation was turned down, angering local councillors. A preferred route corridor for upgrades to the N81 from Hollywood Cross to Tallaght was selected in 2016. However, the road improvement scheme was not included in the Government's Capital Investment Plan (CIP), which provides the financial and strategic framework for Transport Infrastructure Ireland's activities until 2021.
Cllr Gerry O'Neill agrees that his fellow members should also be allowed attend today's meeting.
'I will be at the meeting as a member of the N81 Group but all the Councillors sitting on Baltinglass Municipal District should be in attendance. I proposed exactly that at one of the last monthly District meetings we held,' said Cllr O'Neill.
Former West Wicklow TD Billy Timmins has also questioned why local councillors weren't invited to the meeting. 'I welcome any pressure to get the N81 back on the agenda but I do fear this issue is being used for political football. The upgrade of the N81 was moved off the agenda a few years ago and we heard nothing from our TDs. Now, with the possibility of an upcoming election, it is suddenly on the agenda again. The usual procedure would be for members of the relevant Municipal District to be invited.'