A FINE Gael TD who called recently for measures to prevent the widespread closure of pubs in rural Ireland has been accused of “blatant hypocrisy” by a neighbour who runs a pub in his hometown in Co Roscommon.
Colman Byrne, owner of the Lir Cafe Bar at Market Street, Ballaghaderreen, criticised John O’Mahony TD for objecting to the proposed extension of his family-run premises, a popular late bar and entertainment venue.
Mr O’Mahony received widespread media coverage some months ago when he highlighted the fact that rural pubs were closing down at a rate of almost one a day. Stressing the opportunities that rural pubs provided for social contact, Mr O’Mahony proposed rural pubs that ran buses for their customers should be exempt from vehicle registration tax for these buses.
Mr Byrne, whose premises are just across the road from Mr O’Mahony’s family residence, issued a strongly worded statement claiming the TD had put 20 jobs at risk by his objection.
Last February Roscommon County Council refused planning permission for the extension. Among the reasons given were that the site was in an area zoned residential in the county development plan. The proposal would also endanger public safety by reason of traffic hazard as the access road from the car park to the N5 was too narrow to safely accommodate pedestrians and traffic, council planners said.
“Surely in these recessionary times the role of a public representative is to support local businesses,” Mr Byrne said yesterday.
But Mr O’Mahony rejected the suggestion that he or the other objectors were to blame for the refusal. He pointed out the council’s refusal had to do with the residential zoning of the area and concerns about traffic.
“I have a clear conscience on this . . . From my point of view I am totally supportive of businesses that operate within the regulations,” he said.
Mr Byrne intends lodging a fresh application for planning permission with the council.