Motorway Corruption in Ireland

I had to do a job in Dublin today and I was up and down in a flash on the great new motorways we have these days.  Isn’t it great?  No more sitting in the traffic at Borris-in-Ossory or Mountrath or Moneygall, asking yourself, why the fuck do these places exist?

Although, in fairness to Borris-in-Ossory, I have to say this: a very kind lady in the hotel once took pity on us when we had a brand new baby in distress and the kind woman offered all the facilities of the house to make sure the little one would be all right.  Thank you, kind woman from long ago. I hope you’re still among us.

The child is now a strapping young woman herself and in no further need of assistance.

But still, wasn’t it a disaster, driving from here to there?  I used to live in Dublin, and the journey was just that — a journey.  Today, you jump on the motorway and you’re there.   Bang.  The end.  But not in the dark old days.

Does anyone remember the ridiculous hairdresser’s shop at the corner in Nenagh?  It exemplified and encapsulated everything that was pathetic and provincial about the Ireland of its time.  As you nudged forward in the traffic, trying grimly to keep enjoying your latest Talking Heads album on the tape deck, while the child screamed blue murder in the back and your blood pressure approached red-line values, there it was, right there on the corner.  A very cheap plastic sign that said Eileen O’Brien, Late of New York.

Oh dear sweet Jesus. Thank you Eileen.  Unwittingly, you lifted our weary souls as we trudged southward and gave us a hearty laugh every time.

Eileen O’Brien, Late of New York.  

Doesn’t it say so much, in so few words?  I regret never taking a photo of that sign, because it said so much about our country at that time, and perhaps in the future.  The loss of the old National Primaries is the loss, in many ways, of a culture.  A culture of rage, frustration and annoyance, but also a culture that educated us in musical taste.  After all, what else could you do when stuck in a three-mile tailback outside Roscrea and trying to placate a screaming child?  What else but play that child your copy of Graceland at full  volume, thereby creating a natch’l born throwback years later?  It’s not like you’re going to play your favourite Matt Johnson tape, is it?  Or Blood and Chocolate?  Well, yes.  Unfortunately for the child, it is.

It’s a lot better than it used to be, but of course, none of that is relevant to this post.  I’m all in favour of motorways, but what I’m not in favour of is this: politically-designed motorways, which is what we have in Ireland.

Here’s the ridiculous politically-driven motorway map in Ireland today.   I wrote about it in another post, and I won’t waste my time repeating that discussion here.

Motorways should be designed by engineers.  They should determine the precise layout, the optimal grid that will achieve the most efficient transport, given the various constraints that exist  everywhere in the world.

Were Irish motorways designed by engineers?  Well, yes and no.  After the politicians finished selecting the land that the new road should go through, so that their friends, relatives and voters got the maximum compensation, the new roads were laid out broadly along the lines of the old national primaries.  Needless to mention, this was an insane policy, but we did it anyway, because it made the relatives and friends of politicians rich.

That’s the No.  The Yes is that after all these political decisions were finished, engineers designed the roads, but they did so based on utterly corrupt choices, and therefore we ended up with superbly-designed motorways that just happen to go through land formerly owned by the friends and families of politicians, who had to be bought out at enormous public expense.

It isn’t about public officials being bribed.  By the time they became involved, the decision was already made.

Figure it out, folks.  Corruption takes many forms.



15 thoughts on “Motorway Corruption in Ireland

  1. Speaking about signs that make you laugh, on the back road between Shannon and Newmarket on Fergus there’s a pub that used to have a large sign saying “Barfood served daily”. Over a couple of years it gradually changed until it read “Barf served daily” ‘Twas like that for at least a year until all the letters were removed. I still regret not taking a photo.

    Also the old Garda station in Shannon Industrial Estate used to have a window on the side that was shaped like a Swastika. Pure coincidence or an architect with a sense of humour ? I have no idea.

  2. Being Church of Ireland rector of Mountrath and Borris-in-Ossory, the quality of life in Laois was considerably enhanced by the motorway, but I agree that the route was politically influenced – as was the route of the railway a hundred and fifty years previously.

    The diner in Borris-in-Ossory still advertises ‘3 Coarse Lunches’

  3. I always wondered why towns like Borris-in-Ossory came into existence in the first place but I suppose I was looking at them from a 20th century perspective.

  4. Even from a Nineteenth Century perspective, I am not sure why it developed where it did. The railway station is at Ballybrophy – which is not even a village.

    During the Tiger years, the railway line coming in from Limerick might have been realigned to allow trains to run from Limerick via Roscrea a straight run to Portlaoise, instead of turning back westwards to stop at Ballybrophy for passengers to catch the Cork-Dublin trains, but nothing was done.

  5. I suspect the road lobby was influential.

    The frequency of trains on the Limerick-Ballybrophy line was increased recently, from the four trains a day of the past thirty years, to six a day, but who is going to catch a train from Nenagh or Roscrea to go to Ballybrophy? The only positive side effect of the poor rail service is the frequency of buses from Shannon/Limerick to dublin – including night services.

    The environmentalists constantly pressing for fuel price increases seem to have no comprehension of the realities of life in rural Ireland.

  6. Saw a sign in a cafe in Chapel Lane that read..” Bowel of Soup”, forget the price though.

  7. Yes Bock,

    I have to agree with you about the corruption and motorways, my own bugbear has been the M3 runnign through the Tara valley and the “Blundellstown Interchange” that has been on the plans for about 20 or so years before that motorway was built. Strange that no mention in the media was made of people who owned the lands around the Blundellstown Interchange that were rezoned and hugely increased in value. Or not.

    But, it seems that for any infrastructure project it has been the same historically. I remember reading about the first major infrastructure project to supply water for Dublin from Wicklow, and the engineer in charge personally bought the land on the route before plans were laid in order to stop speculators in the establishment trying to gouge their unfair share. After the pipes were laid, he put the lands up for sale again not seeking any profit, just wanted to see the job done for the benefit of all, and not the usual shysters. Fair play to him, and we could do with more like him now.

  8. It has even been suggested to me that certain relatives of certain politicians bought up land in advance of certain motorway developments. Can you believe that?

  9. It’s a pity there are no relatives of politicians in the north west and its environs – we might have been seen to in motorway terms then. The top half of the country is lacking somewhat a decent road network.

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