The Ballagh bypass: safer but a drain on a once-thriving town?
The N5’s route through Ballaghaderreen can make it a dangerous place. A new road around the Co Roscommon town will make it safer. But will it drain even more life from the once-thriving town?
Roadworks: building the town’s bypass. Photograph: Brian Farrell
Roadworks: an HGV tackles Flannery’s Corner. Photograph: Brian Farrell
Roadworks: Pat Towey at his petrol station. Photograph: Brian Farrell
Roadworks: Phil Butler outside her house. Photograph: Brian Farrell
Roadworks: Mulligan’s hardware. Photograph: Brian Farrell
Brian Mulligan owns the Mulligan & Co furniture store on Flannery’s Corner, in the Co Roscommon town of Ballaghaderreen. The corner is a narrow T-junction that traffic must negotiate to make its way through Ballaghaderreen before it continues its journey west. It is primarily because of concerns about the safety of the junction that the town’s bypass has been built. The new section of road will open in early September, if not before then.
Mulligan’s father, Jimmy, bought the business when Brian was in his last year of national school, “and so for 44 years this corner boy has seen many a heavy truck manoeuvre around this bend. It’s the tightest corner from Dublin to Westport, and I’ve always been full of admiration for those drivers who have had to turn their trucks on a sixpence.”
Anyone who has stood at Flannery’s Corner on a busy Friday afternoon would understand why the €60 million bypass has been built. But a bypass can also harm a town, its commercial life and its residents, and so not everyone is happy.
Ballaghaderreen is a small town with a population of 1,822. Its main street has become a shadow of what it once was, and the N5’s new 13.5km arc around the town threatens it further. Business owners are on edge, community activists are planning ahead and one couple are threatening legal action over what they say is a significant devaluation of their home.
Phil Butler and her husband, John, live in a well-kept two-storey home on the eastern side of the bypass. The Butlers’ garden, which features white lillies and a groomed lawn, is an asset she feels has been made worthless by the construction, opposite her home, of what looks like a large pond – a treatment area for run-off water that she says was never on the original plans they were given.
In a letter to the National Roads Authority this month, the Butlers expressed their concern at the lack of consultation with locals; “plans for the area appear to be modified from day to day with the impact on the residents of the area only being apparent when the works have been completed.”
Butler says she is at her wits’ end but is determined to fight her corner.
Eoin Madden is an engineer who lives across the road from the Butlers. He says he can see the value of the bypass for the region as a whole but sympathises with the Butlers, with others affected by the works, and with what the bypass means for the town’s economy.
“Countries only progress with decent infrastructure. It bring jobs, industry and investment to a country,” he says. “But that does not mean that everyone benefits. The effect is for the greater good, but, within that, local traders suffer. The town loses its very essence, [its reason for being] there in the first place: as a place of trade. It all contributes to the draining of life from small towns – and that, unfortunately, is inevitable.”