A CORK mother of two young children, one of whom has a disability, is concerned about road safety in Innishannon.
Clara O’Byrne and her husband, parents of six-year-old Emer and three-year-old Daniel — who is deaf — live in Mulberry View in the village.
Their house is in a very narrow cul de sac, five metres wide, with no footpath. They are next to a church and opposite the local primary school, Scoil Eoin.
“The church car park is the designated school car park and there is parking for teachers outside the school,” explains Clara.
“Church Hill has seen an explosion in houses in recent years and the numbers in the school are over 400. There is no pedestrian crossing anywhere on Church Hill and the road itself is used as a rat run to avoid the lights in Innishannon.
“The gardaí say they have petitioned Cork County Council for traffic calming in the area.
“In my particular road, Mulberry View, there is no footpath so I have to walk on the actual road with my children for school runs and also to access Church Hill, which has the only footpath into the village. This is to access the playground.”
With Scoil Eoin now closed because of the coronavirus, Clara says that her neighbours are actually relieved as it means no traffic problems in the vicinity.
Clara, who is on leave from her work with the COPE Foundation, says she has sent more than 20 emails to the area engineer and local councillors about the issue.
“In direct contradiction of Cork County Council’s stated customer charter, I have had no reply from the local area engineer and minimal interaction from local councillors,” she says.
“I have initiated an FOI (freedom of information) request on road safety issues in the area , specifically relating to my house, and have made a formal complaint about the local area engineer continuing to ignore the problem.”
A meeting was organised by a senior engineer recently for Clara and local residents.
“It was cancelled... the issue is one of safety and of accessibility, both of which fall under the remit of Cork County Council.”
Daniel attends childcare.
“I try to avoid having him on the road and keep him in as much childcare as I can. I walk to the school to collect Emer when I can.
“That fifty metres is full of people who are parking to collect their children. They won’t use the church car park. It’s habit and laziness. There’s no logical reason for it.”
Clara will be taking carer’s leave from her job in May.
“I’m doing this simply because I don’t want Daniel in childcare all the time as it’s not great for his language development. I’ll be at home with the children.
“When Daniel starts going to early intervention in Douglas, he will be dropped home at 1pm. I’ll walk on the road with him to collect Emer.
“My specific issue is that, within a couple of months, I’ll be on the road on a daily basis with a deaf child. I won’t be able to leave the children out in the garden unless I’m out there with them, because of the road.
“The school hall is rented out to groups on the hour, every hour, from 3pm to 9pm, so it’s not just a case of coping with traffic during the school day.”
Clara points out that when she is on the narrow road, she has to hold the hands of both children. “If I’m walking with two children abreast on the road, with no footpath, there literally isn’t space for a car to pass through.”
Daniel is deaf in both ears “to a severe range. He has a particular type of hearing aid which is worn on a band from his head. He can’t have surgery until he is seven.”
Clara says she has been speaking to Susan Kennefick of the National Disability Authority. “She was saying to me that the government ratified the UNCRPD (the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disability).
“State agencies, she said, are coming under pressure left, right and centre to be seen to be doing something that meets their obligations.
“But a lot of these things they have to do are quite expensive such as lowering footpaths for wheelchair accessibility. So they’re putting them off.”
In a few months, says Clara, “these agencies are going to be audited to see if their obligations are being met. If (Cork County Council) would get a tin of yellow paint for the road, it would be an easy win as it would make the road safer for Daniel.”
In the future, Clara hopes that her son will attend Scoil Eoin. “I would hope he’d be able to walk without holding my hand, like his peers. But currently, because it is so unsafe and because Daniel can’t localise sound, he is highly vulnerable. Without the road being made safe, he will be less independent. That’s where it becomes an equality and access issue.”
Clara has written to the council, saying that if it engaged with her and gave her a reason for the lack of action, she could work with it. “But they’re pretending I don’t exist.”
When contacted, an email from Cork County Council said it is investigating “the difficulties outlined at Mulberry View and Church Hill, Innishannon, and is working with the residents with a view to developing a solution. The meeting that was scheduled to take place (on March 9) was cancelled as all elected representatives from the area were unable to attend.”