LAOIS must pay a whopping €184,000 for road works carried out for the National Ploughing Championships, even though the event was held in Co Carlow.
The six-figure sum was the cost of improving the Ardnateggle Road near Killeshin, as it was one of the main routes for traffic travelling to the championships from Laois and the northwest direction.
The de-luxe job transformed the rural road into a thoroughfare fit for a major airport, according to local councillors. Cllr Aisling Moran commented: “It’s like a runway now. You could land a plane on it.”
News of the massive bill that landed in Laois county hall was greeted with dismay at the latest meeting of Graiguecullen-Portarlington Municipal District. Some councillors were particularly annoyed that the National Ploughing Association (NPA), which organises the annual championships, refused to pay a single cent towards the cost of the road upgrade.
Area engineer Philip McVeigh confirmed that Laois County Council asked the NPA for a contribution towards the cost of the road works, but the request was turned down.
Cllr Ben Brennan described the NPA’s letter to the council as “not very nice” and said he was very disappointed that they refused to contribute, despite the fact that the road upgrade benefited the ploughing championships.
Cllr Brennan added: “We spent €184,000 on this and it means that money can’t be used on other roads as a result. The Ardnateggle Road wouldn’t be used by Laois people as much as, say, the Ballylinan to Barrowhouse Road, which really needs that money.”
He was supported by cllr Moran, who felt the organisers of big events such as the ploughing championships or major music festivals should have to pay for any necessary road-works. She said: “It wasn’t even held in Laois and yet it’s a big expense for us. There should be a rule in advance of any of these events that we sit down with the organisers and talk about the costs.”
Cathaoirleach Paschal McEvoy agreed and said: “If they want to use a road, they should pay for it, whether it’s the ploughing championships, the Electric Picnic or whatever. It’s not good enough that we are landed with a bill for nearly €200,000.
On the plus side, cllr Brennan said the Ardnateggle Road was “forgotten about” for 30 years and at least it was done now, while cllr Pádraig Fleming agreed that it was “a fantastic road” following the works.
Head of finance Gerry Murphy said the county council will try to recoup some money from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) for the expensive Ardnateggle Road project.