Athy Town Council came under siege last Wednesday night, April 20, as protestors demonstrated outside the chamber over the installation of three new sets of traffic lights in the town. Later a 50-strong crowd packed the public gallery and stood in silence as the monthly council meeting took place.
However, the elected representatives remained firm, defiant and united; the additional traffic lights will go-ahead as soon as possible on grounds of pedestrian safety.
As the monthly council meeting was under way, a crowd over 50 people converged outside the building. A tractor decorated in placards blocked the entrance of the council carpark. A giant glossy ‘Anti-Traffic Lights Protest’ poster was placed strategically at the glass council doors.
Speaking outside, Liam Dunne said the Athy Traffic Action Committee condemned the imminent installation of three new sets of traffic lights on the main thoroughfare of Athy - in Leinster St at the junction with Meeting Lane, Fortbarrington Road junction and the GAA/Rugby Club entrance.
“The committee is very angry with Kildare County Council for breaking an undertaking not to introduce any further traffic signals until the completion of a town bypass. We also condemn the plans to introduce three further sets of lights over the next year or so. This will bring to nine the number of traffic signals on the main thoroughfare, a distance of only 1.25km. There is no justification for this waste of people’s time and taxes. We will then have the highest density of traffic signals in any town in Western Europe, in a town that doesn’t need any,” Mr Dunne explained.
Among the demonstrators, who were admitted to the chamber’s public gallery were Liam Dunne of the Irish Farmers Association, Kildare County Show’s Tom Kelly, Athy Chamber of Commerce President Paul Cunningham, architect and election candidate Adrian Cummins, and businesspeople Tom King, Vincent O’Connor, Una Conroy, Adrian Conlan. There were also a few children who swang merrily from the chamber poles and played on the steps outside.
Each councillor, bar Sinn Fein’s Michael Dunne, spoke passionately at length supporting the additional lights on grounds of pedestrian safety, in particular the safety of children crossing the Athy GAA/rugby entrance.
“For too long we have fought over traffic management in Athy,” Cllr Mark Wall observed. Cathaoirleach Cllr James Mahon said it was the “proudest moment of his time as cathaoirleach” to be welcoming a multimillion water scheme, new traffic lights and the phased construction of the Southern Distributor Route.
Work on the three additional traffic lights will begin in earnest with a completion date of June.
Meanwhile, the Athy Traffic Action Committee is organising a meeting next Wednesday 8.30pm in the Carlton Abbey Hotel to decide on its course of action.