It is almost four months since Roseann and Chris Brennan had to cope with the worst nightmare of any parent – the death of their child.
Six-year-old Jake died after being hit by a car outside his home in the Lintown Grove housing estate on the edge of Kilkenny City. A Garda investigation remains ongoing, and there will be an inquest into the death.
In their grief, his parents turned to action. They were joined by family members, friends and neighbours in launching a campaign called Jake’s Legacy, which pushes for change to road safety laws focusing on making housing estates safer for children.
Their campaign, to have mandatory speed ramps and lower speed limits introduced in housing estates, has already succeeded in highlighting the low uptake on a range of optional measures local councils can employ to improve road safety.
Following a meeting with Minister Pascal O’ Donoghue in August, the Department of Transport instigated a nationwide survey of local authorities to see which, if any, had implemented bylaws to lower speed limits, and how many estates had speed ramps.
The results of the survey, produced in a report at the end of September, reveal that not one county council in the whole country has brought in the bylaw on reducing speed limits to 30kph in residential areas. It also reveals that just 14% of the country’s housing estates have speed ramps in them, with wide variance from county to county.
Kilkenny County Council reported that 40 of its 58 housing estates have speed ramps – a higher percentage than any other county. The survey also found that the average cost per speed ramp is €3,200.
“The most important objective is to reduce vehicle speeds in housing estates so as to improve safety for children and adults and DTTAS (the Department of Transport) sees the increased use of a 30km/h speed limit in residential areas as a measure that will help to achieve that objective,” concludes the report.
If Roseann Brennan had been shocked when she learned that the speed limit for built-up residential areas is 50km/h, she was even more staggered when she found that not one county council has availed of the bylaw to reduce it to 30km/h.
The campaign has spent the last few months meeting with Government ministers, Department officials, local authority staff, and even the Taoiseach. They have made endless telephone calls, emails, and requests for information.
From the outset, they worried that red tape would be their enemy, and they have been feeling frustrated at times. They say their last few attempts to continue a dialogue with the local authority have not been fruitful.
There are still so many questions. Why were the speed ramps that were part of the planning permission never built? Why did Kilkenny County Council, having served an Enforcement Order on the developer four years ago, not issue proceedings or implement the works itself? And now, whose responsibility is it to do the work, and will it be done?
The launch of the Jake’s Legacy campaign received national media coverage, and the Facebook page has over 14,000 likes. The public see their campaign, but only those closer to them perhaps know of the lonely nights spent at the grave, or the private grief they try to cope with on a daily basis.
Weeks ago, when they first began their campaign, something Rosie said resonates still.
“If even one child is saved because of something we achieve with this,” she said, “won’t it all have been worth it?”