Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Roadside protest flags up residents’ concerns 

Locals have been campaigning for years to secure road safety improvements and have now moved to demand previous assurances from the Roads Service and DfI are implemented. 

The residents were supported in their community protest by members of the Derrybeg Community Association as well as Independent Cllr Gavin Malone and members of Saoradh. 

A number of families who lost loved ones in accidents over the years also attended. 

Saoradh’s Newry representative, and chairperson of Derrybeg Community Association, Stephen Murney addressed the  gathering, and gave a background to the campaign for road safety measures.

He said: “Back in 2015 myself and fellow activist Anthony Coyle attended a site meeting with the DFI and Roads Service. At that meeting we outlined the dangers and the near misses that had taken place.  Following this meeting we were given assurances that improvements would be put in place including a new modern traffic light system and various other measures.

“Since that meeting in 2015 not one single obligation has been fulfilled and not one single change has been made to make this road safer. The people within these communities are becoming increasingly frustrated and today’s turnout is evidence of that.

“The local community are fully behind Saoradh with this campaign and we are grateful for the ongoing support from local residents.

“We will fight tooth and nail to secure a safer area and we won’t give up until vital road safety improvements are put in place.”

Murney pledged that Saoradh will to continue to lobby and campaign on behalf of the community and added that he will keep the residents updated “as this vital campaign progresses”.

Meanwhile Councillor Gavin Malone praised the residents and spoke of the distress continued to be felt by a local family who lost loved ones. 

He said: “It seems a simple request but this community has been making this appeal for years  and still the cars speed by,” he said. 

“Among the community activists today, there is one family who have repeated this request quietly and with dignity over and over again throughout the years. 

A family who had to live through the most unbelievable tragic heartbreak of losing two beloved family members on this very stretch of road. 

“Today the Hughes  family talked to me about their experience about the two beautiful people taken from them so cruelly  On the 9th October 1982 Bernadette sadly and tragically lost her life in a fatal road traffic accident she was  16 years old.  In 1985 on the 10th October, almost three years to the day, Bernadette’s younger brother  Bernard was also killed on the same stretch of road in a fatal road traffic accident. He was 14 years old. 

“I can hardly comprehend how a family continues to build their lives and live after such devastation but listening to the Hughes family today I was struck by their strength and their dignity. They have a simple request. Do not let these horrific tragedies be repeated. 

“I know without a doubt that if people could spend  ten minutes in their company or five minutes in their shoes then we would all have a different and more informed attitude to the danger on our roads. Our communities are full of amazing and aspirational people and today I spent time with some of the very best. Their message was clear – Dangerous driving kills.

“I want to do all I can to highlight this issue and pay tribute to the constant campaigning of decent people to make this road safer for everyone. It was heartening to see the community come out today in support of addressing this issue. And I genuinely hope that the message will start to sink in – slow down.”