Two local representatives clashed at last week’s meeting of Longford County Council over the Government’s Local Improvement Scheme (LIS).
The initiative, aimed at ring-fencing monies to upgrade predominantly private roadways, had initially appeared to run its course late last year when government chiefs decided to axe the scheme.
That appeared to be the case until earlier this year when Transport Minister Leo Varadkar delivered an unexpected u-turn.
Unlike its previous make-up however, the new look strategy provides no separate grant allocation for local authorities to carry out resurfacing works.
Instead, councils like Longford and others face having to use up to seven per cent of their own discretionary spending to keep the scheme operational.
A long-standing campaigner for the retention of the scheme Cllr John Duffy said he was heartened by his fellow councillors’ decision to “belatedly support” the importance of maintaining the LIS initiative.
“I take great exception to being told that I didn’t support the Local Improvement Scheme while it was here,” Cllr Sexton replied.
“I think it is an insult to this council that Leo Varadkar would tell us that it has been re-introduced but that we put our own money into it. Every councillor in this chamber has said over a long number of years that it (LIS) was by far the best scheme that ever was introduced, particularly for rural roads.”
She then asked Cllr Duffy to withdraw his comment.
Cllr Duffy remained impassive, claiming his stance both at last week’s meeting and corresponding ones held late last year, had vindicated him.
“I certainly won’t be retracting anything that I said,” was his short and sharp reply to Cllr Sexton. “On numerous occasions I brought up the Local Improvement Scheme and in November I did express my disappointment about Leo Varadkar’s position on it. I did say at a local roads meeting that it was most unfair of him to ask us to take seven per cent out of our roads budget. I did propose that we do put in a roads improvement scheme but it wasn’t supported. As I said at the time I understood why it wasn’t supported, but the reality of it was that it wasn’t.”
Shaking her head in quiet indignation, Cllr Sexton said the version of events put forward by Cllr Duffy was “absolute rubbish” as several other councillors began raising their voices.
And in a bid to restore calm County Mayor Cllr Sean Farrell brought a halt to the discussion, insisting any differences of opinion was not an excuse for the meeting to descend into a “free-for-all”.