Think of schools first when temperatures plummet – council told


PUBLIC representatives across Donegal claim they have been inundated with requests from parents to prioritise access to schools when freezing conditions threaten to make roads impassable and gritters are deployed.

During a meeting of Donegal County Council last Monday, it was revealed that currently, 1,140 kilometres of road spanning 21 separate routes are gritted in the county when temperatures plummet.


This accounts for approximately 18% of Donegal’s public roads.

“I know that all councillors across the county will have been getting it in the ear. Once a school shuts down, apart from impacting a child’s education, the parents might then be housebound, unable to go to work,” Cllr Jack Murray told the meeting in Lifford.

Councillor Murray proposed a motion urging the council to prioritise gritting outside of schools. Subsequently, it was disclosed that a review of the gritting policy has in fact been ongoing since before Christmas.

“Work has already commenced internally to examine the issue. This review obviously has to take cognisance of a number of factors; the time it takes for each lorry to grit a route, the volume of the gritting equipment, and the volume of the grit required,” explained Bryan Cannon, Director of Roads & Transportation at the council.

“This is definitely a topic whereby numerous representations have been received over the past number of months because we had two sustained periods of wintry weather – one prior to Christmas and one since.

“We appreciate the difficulties that schools, businesses, households, and those providing home help etc, encounter along roads that are not on our gritting programme,” added Mr. Cannon.
Buncrana-based Cllr Murray claims there are wide-ranging implications associated with failing to ensure road access to schools during very cold weather.

“Even the local economy is impacted when so many parents can’t leave their house to work because schools are closed.


“I fully accept that you can’t get gritters up some of the mountain roads but we should do our best to ensure all schools remain open.

“Maybe we could look at private hire companies that could be brought in for the day,” suggested Cllr Murray.

Councillors are flooded with emails and phone calls from school boards of management and parents when frost and snow arrives, according to Letterkenny Cllr Gerry McMonagle.

“If the council is not in a position to expand the gritting service then maybe we should look at engaging with local farmers or hauliers to see if they can do it for us.

“They’re saying our weather’s going to get more severe and yet our supplies of grit are not prepared for it.

“There are nights when drivers are out gritting the roads and we’re left wondering, why are they out tonight? Then when we get a bad spell, and we can’t get the weans to school, and schools have to close down, we get the response; we can’t be everywhere or we have to watch our supply,” claims Cllr McMonagle.

Any shortcomings raised regarding the council’s gritting programme certainly weren’t directed at drivers who received a great deal of praise from public representatives at Monday’s meeting.

125 kilometres of road was added to Donegal’s gritting programme when the policy was last reviewed in 2021.

It’s expected the latest analysis, including the proposal to prioritise gritting to ensure access to schools, will be completed in time for next winter.

“Elected members will be consulted at Municipal District level and a report will be drafted on this matter for your consideration,” roads boss Bryan Cannon assured councillors.

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