I thank you, a Chathaoirligh, for taking this motion on the Adjournment and I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to respond. I will not go through the entire saga of Ballinagar Bridge. It is located in north Kerry between the parishes of Ballyduff and Lixnaw. It is particularly important transport infrastructure over the River Brick which effectively divides the two parishes I mentioned. It divides communities and individual farms.
The original bridge dates back to the days of British rule. Up to approximately 13 years ago there was a bridge under the charge of the Office of Public Works, which was inadequate especially given the machinery used in modern farming. It eventually came to the stage where Kerry County Council had no option but to close it down on safety grounds as it was about to collapse. As a temporary measure — given that this happened 13 years ago the word "temporary" is flexible in this case — an old disused Army pontoon bridge, the type of thing that was used in the Second World War, was put in. That was meant to last for a few years until a new bridge was provided. However, 13 years later the pontoon bridge was still serving and we did not kick up too much of a fuss about it.
The Minister of State might remember that approximately 18 months ago our area made national headlines when a man went astray with a load of pigs. He took the wrong road and crossed Ballinagar Bridge, which collapsed. A large number of pigs drowned on that occasion. It was tragic for the pigs and it is even more tragic for the community because here we are 16 months later without the bridge. To bring in the harvest this autumn, farmers were forced to travel 14 miles out of their way when they could have crossed directly if the bridge had been there. It is also very important to the local villagers in Ballyduff and Lixnaw because there is considerable turbary there and much turf is cut, for which people must take 14-mile round trips.
Following the most recent collapse, it was indicated that the Government would find money for a replacement. Kerry County Council was informed that it would be supported in providing a new bridge. As recently as last week I was briefed by Kerry county manager that it appears there is no funding for it at present. I hope the Minister of State has come here with some good news for north Kerry.