Beautiful Roscommon village has been abandoned on the fringes, with no strong political representation in its locality.
Shauna O’Neill, an active member of the Cloontuskert community has expressed severe dissatisfaction at the way in which Roscommon County Council has been failing to prioritise projects in the Cloontuskert locality. Ms O’Neill who joined a number of local community groups in 2014 says that she feels the community would actually have gotten more done in the last four years had the council just stayed out of their way. She alleged that the community has been subjected to a litany of false promises by council officials, despite numerous public representatives as well as community group officers being promised that certain works would be carried out.
The beautiful Roscommon village feels that it has been left behind due to a notable lack of political representation, a direct result of its position on the fringes of Roscommon Municipal District. Under the old electoral area system, Cloontuskert was at the heart of its locality nestled in the middle of Tarmonbarry, Ballyleague, and Strokestown, however, with the new regime which came into play in 2014, the small village finds itself on the fringes of a much larger municipal district.
In particular, Ms O’Neill explained to the Democrat that in 2017 and 2018 the village did not receive essential funding which it applied for under the CLAR programme. Specifically, the village has identified the vital need for the erection of speed warning signs on the approach roads, as cars currently pass through the village and by the busy school at dangerous speeds.
In 2017, the local Cloontuskert Residents Association and Tidy Towns Group completed the CLAR application. They requested funding for erecting two flashing speed warning signs, one for each side of the village. When the group discovered that they were not successful in their application, they sought clarity and discovered they had been turned down, essentially, due to an easily rectifiable clerical error which was not picked up by the civil servants who processed the paperwork, despite the group including a note flagging the possible error.
The group took the set-back on the chin and regrouped for the 2018 application. In 2018, Roscommon County Council began to prepare the applications in conjunction with community groups, in order to save them time and avoid errors and duplication. The Democrat was shown a series of communications with council officials and elected representatives which made it appear as though the submission of the Cloontuskert application for funding under the 2018 CLAR programme was being put forward to the department for consideration. However, when no funding was granted the group made enquiries as to why they were not selected for the second year in a row. They claim that clarity was not forthcoming, and after making several attempts to get feedback on their application they were informed that the application, was in fact, not put forward by Roscommon County Council to the department for consideration.
The group were in shock and ultimately were informed that Roscommon County Council chose to put forward an application for speed signs in Ballyleague over that of Cloontuskert, on the basis that that road was busier. Ms O’Neill of Cloontuskert Residents Association argues that despite Ballyleague having a busier road, her village is far more dangerous, as it is much smaller and traffic tends to not “bother” slowing down for the few seconds it takes to pass through the village.
In the summer of 2017, the local community began work on a wonderful heritage garden in the village. The works comprised of; commissioning and erecting two unique sculptures, building stone walls, and landscaping works including the insertion of oak sleepers along the verge of the garden to frame its parameter.
Work on the walls and sculptures were completed over a number of months, and in early 2018 the group began work on the landscaping. The works included levelling out the lawn area by the road and inserting sleepers to create an embankment which would frame the garden (see pictures).
When the group had started the landscaping works, Roscommon County Council told them to stop the work and erected barricades along where the work had been going on. Ms O’Neill explained: “It is one thing for the council not to fund our works in any substantial way, but when we go to the bother of fundraising for projects ourselves, and then they make us stop doing the work we were nearly finished with it is so disheartening. I mean, we would literally be finished now if they had not stopped us.”
It is understood that the council stopped the works on health and safety grounds, as they claim the group required a road opening license to level out the lawn area next to the side-road. It is alleged by Ms O’Neill that the council initially threatened to refill the area they had levelled out but ultimately have agreed to complete the works for the group. The group don’t have much faith, however, as the work was stopped in March of last year, almost ten months ago.
In 2015, 16, 17, and 18 the village of Cloontuskert has made applications for a TUS worker to be assigned to the locality. In each of the four years, no worker was assigned to the village. According to Ms O’Neill, just last year: Roscommon LEADER Partnership, which administers the TUS worker scheme on behalf of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, claimed that the reason the village was not getting any TUS workers was that there is no suitable candidate available in the locality.
As a result of the lack of workers on schemes, all the work in the village is being done on a voluntary basis. The small group of volunteers now face into another busy spring/summer season of cutting grass, planting flowers, watering flowers, and keeping the appearance of the locality top notch for the whole community.
Cloontuskert has suggested sharing a worker with another locality, such as Ballyleague, but this idea has not been entertained. The community seriously needs something long-term and sustainable assistance as it has been consistently been punching above its weight over the years in competitions such as Tidy Towns, and despite their trojan efforts, moral in the locality is understandably low given the set-backs they have faced in recent times.
The road within the picturesque Abbey housing estate in Cloontuskert, originally developed as accommodation for the workers in Bord na Mona, is in serious need of upgrading. The road surface and footpaths are in a very bad state of repair. A small amount of funding was allocated a number of years ago, but when the road was assessed the council felt it was not a sufficient amount of funding to do any substantial work and at a recent meeting of the municipal district councillors were advised that Roscommon County Council assessed the estate and were surprised to find that the scale of works required were far beyond what was first envisaged and that the resurfacing of a road like this would normally involve recycling of the existing road however when the job was assessed the council discovered that there is no proper foundation in the road at all. The cost of the job is estimated to be in the region of €330,000 to €350,000. A figure which is about ten times more than the average road of its length would cost.
It is understood that at a recent meeting of Roscommon County Council, it was stressed by Cllr Orla Leyden that Cloontuskert had to be prioritised this year and Roscommon County Council committed to the Cloontuskert digital speed sign application being made ahead of others this year, provided a CLAR programme was opened. At the same meeting, Roscommon County Council is also understood to have committed to carrying out works at the heritage garden in the village in 2019. However, as the estimated cost of upgrading the road with-in the Abbey estate is estimated to run to circa 30-40% of the projected roads budget for the municipal district, it is likely that this work will not be progressed in any substantial manner.
Wonderful Cloontuskert perseveres
Despite the number of challenges which Cloontuskert has faced in recent years, the wonderful community in Cloontuskert have continued to strive on a daily basis to improve their local environment. In particular, Cloontuskert has received a number of awards in the Tidy Towns competition, which is always a great benchmark of activity in an area. In 2017 the village received the Irish Value Water Special Award, and they took home bronze medals in 2017, 2016, 2004, and 2003. Between 2011 and 2005 inclusive, the village was highly commended in the competition and was commended in 2015 as well as from 2006 to 2013. And most recently, Cloontuskert won a bronze medal in 2018.
Some of the projects which have been undertaken by Cloontuskert Tidy Towns in recent years include:
• Painting of the front of the Old School building
• Design of a shop scene on the boarded-up windows/installation of signage, including recently installing Bord na Mona signage dedicated to the villages past as a BNM housing scheme
• Creation and maintenance of new flower-beds around the estate
• Creation of stone 'Fáilte' features at the estate entrance
• Creation of Heritage Garden, on which work is ongoing
• Development of Community Orchard on a previously overgrown site
• Installation of a Community Polytunnel and rainwater harvester
• Development of Upcycling Garden
• Completion of tree survey on the trees in the village to identify dangerous trees
• Creation of Pollinator Garden
• Painting of the gates at Cloontuskert National School
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