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Breathnach and Callan clash over Ardee bypass

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Declan Breathnach TD and councillor Kevin Callan.
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This article originally appeared on ThisIsArdee.ie

Fianna Fail TD for Louth Declan Breathnach accused Independent councillor Kevin Callan of “verbal ejaculation” earlier today as debate rages on over the immediate future of the Ardee bypass.

The deputy and councillor appeared on LMFM’s The Michael Reade Show on Tuesday morning to discuss the Ardee bypass. Last week, Independent councillor Kevin Callan said that he and Ardee-based colleague Jim Tenanty had secured funding for the bypass to proceed.

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In a statement released to ThisIsArdee.ie on Thursday, the local Independent councillors said they had “received confirmation from Minister for Transport Shane Ross that the Ardee Bypass is to proceed and be funded following their efforts to secure investment, which is now being made available.” The headline in the statement issued to us read, “Callan & Tenanty secure Ardee Bypass from Transport Minister Shane Ross”.

That was a claim disputed by Breathnach, who said that beyond money allocated for contracts, the Ardee bypass was no further progressed. During the course of the segment today, the Knockbridge based TD accused Callan of “verbal ejaculation.” Speaking to host Cathal Dervan, Callan attempted to clarify the current situation.

“We issued a statement last week in relation to the N2 upgrade and also that the Minister had let us know that the project on the bypass itself was about to begin,” he said.

“This term shovel ready has been around for years and if you talk to anybody in Ardee, they seem to think all it takes is one push of a button with the funding and all the project starts. We discovered in the course of the last year that it wasn’t shovel ready at all – that you had to go through all of the contractual documentation to make it happen.

Callan says that Minister Ross has confirmed the €250,000 funding for the finalising of contracts has been committed. “The Minister has confirmed the funding – €250,000 – has been made available,” he added. “I am delighted to say that we are now at the stage, with the Minister’s intervention over the last year, where those documents are ready and we are shovel ready in advance of the mid-term review in capital spending.”

In response to the question, posed by Dervan, “Did your initial press release suggest that the road was going to be ready?”, Callan said, “No, no, no. What we said was that we were announcing that this is the start of the bypassing of Ardee.”

This directly contradicts the press release issued to ThisIsArdee.ie. In the statement issued to this website, there was no mention of the start or of €250,000 money solely for contracts. In the statement, Callan said “Today is a great day for Ardee.” His remarks today offer a stark change in tone to that of five days ago.

“Not only did we confirm it through the press, we went to every single house in Ardee and we issued an update to everyone in the town to say we secured the starting of the bypassing of Ardee,” he continued.

“If these documents were not prepared by September, this project would not be granted funding. For years people have been going on about the Ardee bypass and everything being in place – this documentation was not in place as of this year.

“We have just secured funding before the mid term review is about to happen. That assists us in accessing that funding. A lot of parties say Independents can’t get anything done and we’re of no use. We have used contact with the Transport Minister to make it clear to him that this has to be done, it has to be ready to go.”

Breathnach was among the first to question Thursday’s announcement and he confirmed on Friday that no more than €250,000 for paperwork had been given to the Ardee bypass project. Whilst the TD welcomed that allocation again today, he accused the councillors of taking credit for something all politicians should still be working towards securing.

“All politicians and none want to see the bypass of Ardee,” he said. “I certainly felt there was some verbal ejaculation that took place last week. People try to take credit when really it is incumbent for all politicians – not to take credit – but to work together to achieve it on behalf of the region.

“The key issue for the listeners and the politicians here is to focus the mind on getting a date and a time line, post this €250,000 spend. I would be hopeful that this will happen. It is incumbent on all politicians to work together.”

Breathnach said that €18 million was required to complete the Ardee bypass and whether or not that money is acquired within the current 2016-2021 capital expenditure window is down to the decision of the mid-term review, due in September.

“They key issue here is the cost of doing the bypass of Ardee is something in the order of €18 million. The €250k allocated last week is most welcome. The road was shovel ready a number of years ago but the standards in relation to the design of roads has slightly changed. The Minister has allocated this money to bring the technical drawings and indeed the project to a contract stage.”

The Fianna Fail TD also expressed his concern that off the back of Callan and Tenanty’s original statement, other elected representatives were spreading the word that the bypass has been confirmed to progress to the build stage.

“What concerned me was that Imelda Munster and other Sinn Fein counillors were also being ambiguous with their wording that the bypass was now going to happen,” he told LMFM. “It is incumbent that people realise this is the start and continuation of this process. An €18 million has to be secured from the minister and the TII. We all need to put our shoulders to the wheel [and] stop trying to take credit for something we can all work towards.

“There will be €2 million spent on resurfacing the main street in Ardee this year. That’s the major money that will be spent in Ardee,” he added.

In response to Breathnach’s suggestion that the councillors were attempting to take credit for a major announcement, Callan said, “I’m not going to let an opportunity pass to let people know that the minister has intervened to make sure we get to the stage where are shovel ready.

“I know that six councillors from Ardee met the TII, I know Deputy Breathnach has been working on this as well,” he continued. “As far as myself and councillor Tenanty are concerned, we’ve been working with the Minister directly and the fact that the Minister has met with us and come down and looked at the issue himself, I think the €250,000 is to be welcomed and if it gets us to the mid-year review and we have all the boxes ticked in advance and then we access the big money, then we’re ready to rock and roll.”

Minister Ross has not travelled to Ardee to view the issues first hand. He was due to pay a visit to the two Independent councillors last week before a cancellation. Callan says Ross will come to the town later this month.

 

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