The announcement by the National Roads Authority (NRA) that it will not be providing funding for the construction of the N2 Slane Bypass is to be fought in the European Union.
The news has been met with disappointment and incredulity in the village where community groups have been campaigning for measures to eliminate the traffic dangers posed by the stream of heavy goods vehicles travelling through its main street and onto the bridge across the Boyne.
In its explanation for a pause in progress on the construction of a bypass - delivered to councillors at the Slane Electoral Area meeting last Wednesday - the NRA said the Government"s national transport infrastructure investment programme, Transport 21, provided the framework for the development of the national road network over the 10-year period from 2006 to 2015.
It said that, under the plan, the initial focus of the authority"s programme of works would concentrate on the completion of the five major inter-urban routes linking Dublin to Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Galway and Northern Ireland (via the M1) to motorway/high quality carriageway standard.
The plan anticipated the completion of these routes in their entirety by the end of 2010. Transport 21 also envisaged significant development of other key national primary roads, including the N2, N3, N4, N5, N21, N22, N24, N25 and N30, the Atlantic Road Corridor from Letterkenny through Sligo, Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford, as well as a number of national secondary routes which were identified in the plan as being particularly important for regional development, it said.
Because of this, and the continued uncertainty regarding public finances, the NRA regretted that 'it is not possible at this time to provide funding for the construction of the N2 Slane Bypass'.
It said that it had, however, provided an allocation of €500,000 to Meath County Council this year to enable committed planning and design work on the scheme to progress. 'In order to prevent any delay to the scheme, it is being progressed as a standalone scheme separate to the overall N2 Ashbourne to Ardee Scheme which is currently at Constraint Stage. The advancement of the scheme is being kept under review.'
Fine Gael Cllr Ann Dillon Gallagher said she planned to take the case for a bypass of Slane to Europe. 'The patience of the people of Slane is being sorely tested in the refusal of the Government and the NRA to set a timeframe, together with the necessary finances to move ahead with the Slane bypass. Slane has had too many deaths and near-misses to allow the project to be left hanging in the wind. The only solution to the current high risk being encountered every day by motorists in Slane is a bypass,' she said.
The councillor said that almost all avenues available to the people and public representatives of Slane had been exhausted, including the Oireachtas Transport Committee. 'I intend taking the case for a bypass to Europe based on safety grounds. The European Union has been a significant contributor to the Irish roads network.'
She said she had spoken to Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness about this approach and she was lending it her full support. 'I am also pleased that Fine Gael will be putting the case for the Slane bypass into the party"s new road safety strategy. Shane McEntee, the Fine Gael Spokesperson on Road Safety, is absolutely committed to the Slane bypass being given the go-ahead without any further delay,' she added.
Cllr Dillon Gallagher said it was past time the bypass became 'a reality rather than a wishy washy promise'.
Independent Cllr Jimmy Cudden said that when he was first elected to Meath County Council in 1979, he had put down a notice of motion drawing attention to the dangerous situation on the bridge of Slane. 'Thirty years later, we are no nearer having a bypass. In some ways, it"s a pity we don"t have an election every year because every time the ballot box comes in sight, Government parties and representatives say there are great things on the way for Slane.
'In all that time, we have had a Taoiseach from Meath (John Bruton), and several Government Ministers and an MEP and we are still no nearer our goal. We are as far away as ever from realising a bypass. But for the hand of God we would have had a dozen fatalities in the last incident in the village.
'What does it take to move the Government to providing this life-saving measure for the people of Slane?' asked Cllr Cudden.