The junction outside McDonald’s in the centre of Mullingar, where Pearse Street, Castle Street and Austin Friar Street, meet and where councillors say a roundabout should be reinstated.

Rising fury among council district members over roundabout saga

Descriptions of lengthy waits in town centre traffic, accounts of complaints from businesses and motorists, and descriptions of the extent of their own sheer frustration over failure to solve the traffic flow problems in Mullingar were the common themes in the contributions of councillors last week during yet another debate on the removal of the roundabout at McDonald’s.

Leading the charge at the May meeting of the Municipal District of Mullingar Kinnegad was Cllr Ken Glynn, who pointed out that a further source of annoyance to councillors is the fact that they have been ruled out of the decision-making process and told it will be the executive that decides the way forward.

Cllr Glynn had a motion on the agenda proposing that the district immediately "bring forward solid plans" to either remedy the traffic delays at McDonald’s junction or "as previously agreed by members" reinstate the roundabout.

To that, the official written response from the executive team was that as part of the Mullingar Area Based Transportation Study, a specialist traffic survey consultant has been appointed.

"The consultant is currently installing the required hardware to carry out the requested traffic survey at various junctions this month, including the junction referenced," the response stated, going on to add that the analysis of the output of that survey will outline the requirement for any alterations.

District engineer Pat Kavanagh said that the contractor undertaking the survey had started that day: "There’s 92 junction sections to be surveyed; 279 cameras as well as detectors as well as pedestrian conflicts and all sorts of equipment to be fitted because we want to capture everything that’s happening from the centre of Mullingar right out to the dual carriageway right out to the Joe Dolan Bridge," he said.

Reacting to the written response, Cllr Glynn was exasperated at that becoming the response given every time he or any other member of the council raises the issue, which they are permitted to do only once every six months.

He reminded colleagues that as far back as 2017, the decision was made to replace the roundabout with lights.

"I don’t want to be continuously raising this but we’re getting nowhere," he said, adding that he is hearing "on a daily basis" that the new system is not working for the town.

"I’m now losing patience," he said, before indicating that he had little faith in the survey.

"We need to protect our town, we need to protect our town centre and we need positivity around the town centre. Some people may accuse me of being negative: I am not. But I am fighting for the common person, for the business owner that wants to see the town progress and we have an issue there, and unless we deal with the issue, it’s going to continue. So we either deal with the issue and bring forward a solid solution, or put back in the roundabout like the members voted on," he said.

Support came from Cllr Andrew Duncan: "As somebody who is in the town centre every day of the week, I can honestly say this is bringing business out of town," he said.

"I have a business in town myself and I can honestly say that this affects all the businesses in town, and unless something is done with that, it’s going to continue. I still think the only solution is a roundabout."

Cllr Aoife Davitt hoped the survey would be for a long enough period for the results to be meaningful: "A seven-day period is not a large enough period to have an analysis on it," she said, going on to add that she has also had many representations in relation to the junction at Nugent’s corner.

Cllr Emily Wallace was also dissatisfied over the congestion issues and their effect on the town: "We need to help support our businesses, our retailers and our services by ensuring that those people who are living, working and maybe commuting in our town can do so," she said.

"Mullingar is known as a key town, and we are also traders. We rely completely on passing trade and footfall. We’re not multinationals. We cannot take the hit of not having people passing our door – and that’s reality."

The mayor of the municipal district, Cllr Hazel Smyth, wondered if reversing the traffic flow on Martin’s Lane would help alleviate problems, while Cllr Mick Dollard stated that a previous study had found that one in every four cars that go through Mullingar don’t stop at all. He also cautioned that if the roundabout is restored, it could affect the working of other junctions in town.

"I’m happy to wait for the results of this survey. I have asked as many people as possible to make submissions on it," he said.

Cllr Frank McDermott was of a similar view: "If you change one section you knock the entire sequence of the town and while you might relieve one spot temporarily, you could create five different problems unconsciously. So I’d be inclined to hold on," he said.

David Jones, director of services, agreed the results of the transportation study are long awaited but said he council are using the opportunity of the transportation study to look at specific functions within the town, including the one highlighted by Cllr Glynn.

Mr Jones said it was hoped that the results of the survey would allow the council to improve traffic flows by taking certain actions – however, he continued, "we do have an integrated system… and altering one aspect does have a knock on effect on others".

Mr Kavanagh, engineer, said the aim of the new study is to find out exactly what’s happening in and around Mullingar: "I know the McDonald’s junction has been raised several times before but I think we need to look at the bigger picture here," he said, explaining that with that detail, the council will be able to make decisions for the next 20 or 30 years on where to expand or extend the town.

Cllr Glynn was still annoyed that the decisions on the way forward are out of the hands of the councillors: "I would like to remind members of we have been told – we will have absolutely no say in the outcome of this process," he said.

"It has been made clear that it is a function of the executive and not the members, so we have no say in what happens next."