Councillors at the July monthly meeting of Louth County Council on Monday voted to add the upgrade of the N2 Ardee to Castleblayney to the Louth County Development Plan, after Chief Executive Joan Martin warned that not doing so would risk the future of the project.
Louth County Council, in collaboration with project lead Monaghan County Council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, are continuing to work on the scheme, with consultants currently investigating the route options. Six route corridor options, in total, are being considered which include three ‘standalone’ routes with three more small variants on each of the three routes.
The existing N2 route, with no change to the route, is among those being considered for the project. The project would see an upgrade of the N2 single carriageway north of Ardee to the roundabout at Tullyvin, just south of Castleblayney – a 32 kimometre stretch of road.
Earlier this year, a group of residents living along the N2 petitioned Monaghan County Council to pursue an online upgrade of the existing stretch of the N2 between Ardee and Castleblayney – rather than pursue one of the new routes that have been proposed by Jacobs Consulting Engineering and the local authority.
The N2 Ardee to Castleblayney Concerned Residents Group asked people to support an upgrade of the existing stretch of of 32km of the N2/A5 road that runs from Dublin to Derry.
At Monday’s meeting, councillors heard that the current Louth County Development Plan (2015-2021) does not include mention of the N2 Ardee to Castleblayney project. Councillors held a roll call vote, in which Cathaoirleach Dolores Minogue and her Ardee Municipal District colleague Hugh Conlon were the only councillors to vote against adding the project. The motion was passed 21 to 2.
Cllr Jim Tenanty proposed supporting the motion to add the project to the Plan. He voted for it, as did fellow Ardee Municipal District councillors Colm Markey, Pearse McGeough, John Sheridan.
Explaining the process, Martin told councillors that that is was important that all projects to be undertaken in Louth be named in the Plan. “It is really important that a project is named in the County Development Plan. It is tied into getting grants and getting approval. She said the reason it had not been previously named in the Plan was because the receipt of funding had come as a surprise.
“We were not anticipating that there would be funding for the upgrade of this road. There was no indication over recent years at all that there was any intention to upgrade the road north of Ardee. But then, you will recall, the terrible accident on it and I think as a result of that, the political pressure, the TII came back and said we do need to do something with this road.”
Margaret McGonigle (69) from Castlereagh in Bruckless Co. Donegal, daughter Mairead Munday (39) and her friend Rachel Battles (37), both from Ballyloughan in Bruckless, died instantly in a three car collision that took place shortly before 1am on July 21st 2017 at Aclint Bridge between Ardee and Carrickmacross.
Of 22 fatal collisions that occurred along the N2 between 2005 and 2013, 13 were between Castleblayney and Slane – with nine north of Ardee between the town and Castleblayney. Between January 2016 and August 2017, eight people died on the N2 between Hunterstown just south of Ardee and Castleblayney.
“We are putting the scheme into the Development Plan. There’s no map, or routes,” the Chief Executive explained. “We really need to have it mentioned. It is very unusual to try and do a scheme that isn’t already in the plan. The public will have ample opportunity over years, never mind months, to have their say on the route options. Who knows what the ultimate option will be? That remains to be seen.”
Director of Services Frank Pentony told the meeting that 160 submissions had been received following on from the non-statutory public consultation late last year. “The route selection process is happening at the minute. When complete, it will go to a public consultation,” he said. He added he expected the selected route to come before the councillors in a matter of months.
Martin said; “If you don’t put it into the development plan, there is a serious risk that the project will not progress on any route at any time. It is to protect the concept of doing the route. I don’t think there is too many people who use the road who would oppose the idea of doing something on the road.”
Independent councillor Hugh Conlon said, “This is coming very late in the lifetime of the current plan.” He accused the local authority in Louth of “blindly and stubbornly following” Monaghan County Council. Chief Executive Martin told him it was a joint scheme.
Speaking to LouthNow.ie after the meeting, Fine Gael’s Dolores Minogue said, “This project is years away. People are being refused permission to build on their land. How many years will it go on for? The land can’t be used.”