Sulky race ban on Athlone roads called for

A local councillor has called for sulkies to be banned in some areas because they are putting the safety of other road users at risk.

The use of sulkies - two-wheeled carts pulled by horses - has become “a major issue” in the Willow Park area of Athlone, according to Cllr John Dolan.

He said there had also been an incident recently where sulky racing took place “right through the village” of Castledaly.

The Fine Gael councillor said this was “a thorny subject” but one he would not shy away from.

At the July monthly meeting of the Athlone Municipal District, he called for bye-laws to be introduced which would ban “the use of sulkies in estates and on certain minor roads”.

Cllr Dolan had come into contact with people using sulkies and found them to be “most inconsiderate” in their use of the road. He also said the absence of bye-laws meant sulky users were not breaking the law once they were in control of the animal.

Cllr Paul Hogan spoke in favour of the motion, saying the incidents to which Cllr Dolan referred should not be happening. He suggested that the matter should be referred to the council’s Transportation and Planning committee to get its view on sulkies.

“We need to be absolutely clear that when people’s lives and people’s safety are at risk we cannot stand by and take no action,” said the Sinn Fein councillor.

Cllr Tom Farrell (FG) also supported the motion, saying he was aware of incidents involving sulkies on the Athlone to Ballymore road; while Cllr Aengus O’Rourke (FF) said the roads “are dangerous enough already without this kind of behaviour and disregard for other road users.”

Cllr Dolan said he wasn’t asking for people to stop using sulkies altogether, but he felt their use should be limited to certain areas. He said banning them in housing estates “should be fairly straightforward” but clamping down on their use in rural areas would be more difficult.

The council’s Director of Services Barry Kehoe pointed out that nobody was entitled to race on a public road so it was only the use of sulkies – rather than sulky racing – that could be addressed in council bye-laws.

He said this has been an issue in many parts of the country and suggested the council in Westmeath should “talk to other counties and see what they have done” about sulkies.

It was also agreed that the issue should be referred to Transportation and Planning committee for further consideration. In the meantime, Westmeath County Council is advising that “public safety issues which arise as a result of sulky races should be referred to the Gardai under the Road Traffic Acts, and animal welfare issues should be referred to the Department of Agriculture under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013.”