Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

N53 road closure begins despite fierce opposition

The three month closure of the N53 has gone ahead as planned today (Monday) despite fierce opposition from local residents, commuters, farmers and business owners who say they will all be affected by the closure.

Local business owner Peter Finnegan of XL Owen Watters helped to organise a public meeting in June to discuss the implications of the road closure for everyone living and working throughout the general south Monaghan, south Armagh and north Louth areas.

Farmers in the area raised serious concerns as the closure occurs during the busiest time of the farming year but agricultural machinery and heavy goods vehicles will not be permitted to travel along the road, and will be diverted, along with local transport and other traffic onto side roads which, according to concerned residents,  “are totally unsuitable for that volume and type of traffic.”

Businesses along the road from Culloville, which depend on passing traffic to keep their businesses open, have highlighted the negative impact the road closure will have on their livelihoods.

The effect on emergency services including ambulances, fire engines and gardai, with even the Garda station in Hackballlscross directly cut off from access were also put forward during the campaign against the road closure, as well as a petition signed by over 1000 people, along with a ten point submission.

TDs Peter Fitzpatrick and Seamus Kirk along with Louth County Councillor Tomas Sharkey and local business owners, including Mr Finnegan, met with council engineers and Gibson Bros contractors again last week, in an eleventh hour attempt to reverse Louth County Council’s decision to close the road.

Ultimately the Council have stuck with their decision and the road closed today for upgrade works for up to three months with a concession made that the stretch of road from Hackballscross junction to the Garda station may not be cut off for as long as was originally intended.

The council have also agreed to consider erecting signage along the diversion route to advise motorists that Watters Electrical Store and Callan’s Pub remain open for business.

With the council also agreeing to review the situation in a month’s time, Councillor Sharkey urged the public to remain vigilant and report any incidents to the council once the closure begins.

Councillor Declan Breathnach, who issued a statement last Monday criticising the council for not consulting more widely at the start of the process, encouraged people to to continue to support local businesses affected and urged drivers to exercise patience along diversion routes.

Bus Eireann has confirmed it will write to Principals of the main secondary schools in Dundalk and parents in Hackballscross to advise them of alternate pick up points and alternate routes for pupils.

Councillor Sharkey said he believes the alternate routes are unsatisfactory as they are too narrow to accommodate buses and called on the council to implement an amendment to the works schedule to allow buses to travel on the western side of the N53 as far as Hackballscross.

Reacting to Louth County Council’s decision to go ahead with the controversial road closure, Peter Finnegan said the petition submitted to the council had been acknowledged but not acted upon and added that he was disappointed the council “had not taken cognisance of the other points of view.”