Photo: A damaged footpath in Dunmanway.

In many parts of West Cork, where footpaths are present, we see a combination of old, crumbling surfaces, and new poorly executed designs, where materials have been used with no assessment of the amount of grip they provide, and insufficient or non-existent consideration for the effective shedding of rainwater. Between 2019 and 2022, Cork County Council paid out €5.6 million of taxpayers’ money in compensation for footpath related injuries. As a councillor, I would call for a full appraisal of the condition of our footpath infrastructure, and for remedial works to be undertaken with urgency.

An issue that was raised by a number of residents in Rosscarbery was the condition of some of the footpaths, especially on Chapel Hill, where the concrete slabs have heaved up and come loose. These issues have been raised with the council by people living on the hill, and I have also contacted the council urging them to address this. The surface is desperately unsafe, especially when you consider that this section of path is used regularly by students from the schools walking up to the square, tourists and local families taking young children to the playground, and our older neighbours who may be walking to Mass.

In Clonakilty, some newer estates, such as An Sruthán Beag, on the Western edge of town still don’t have a safe pedestrian route into town, while pedestrians in well-established areas like Casement Park, Tawnies Crescent, Assumption Place and Old Chapel Lane are faced with paths slick with algae and moss.

The story is no better in Dunmanway, where residents on the Coach Road/Bantry Road and Castle Street pointed out numerous sections of hazardous broken paving – sections which could easily be patched with concrete in the short-term, to prevent someone being seriously injured.

While the provision of funding for this maintenance is an important element in resolving these issues, above all else, we need to see more manpower dedicated to practical work. In recent years, the decrease in County Council outdoor staff numbers has become very evident. Recruitment has not kept apace with retirements and the shortage of staff means that vital maintenance works are not being undertaken. Local Tidy Towns organisations across the county have quite often been left to pick up the slack, and I was even out in Rosscarbery myself just before Christmas with a yard brush and a drum of Chloros algae-remover scrubbing down some of the extremely slippery footpaths I had encountered while canvassing. This work should not fall to volunteers; property taxes and commercial rates charged by Cork County Council are supposed to be reinvested in our communities. If elected to the Council this June, I will make it my business to demand increased recruitment of outdoor staff.