Greenways highly recommended by a panel of cycling and tourism experts lost out on funding to politically-selected routes, including one which had “not enough emphasis on quality” and another in the then junior transport minister’s constituency.
The Sunday Business Post reported yesterday that the expert panel was largely ignored when it came to selecting 38 greenway projects.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly ignored expert advice by giving €4m for local greenway during by-election campaign in @sundaybusiness today
— Michael Brennan (@obraonain) November 30, 2014
Top ten greenways selected by an independent panel
South Kerry greenway – funded
Galway to Moycullen greenway – funded
Monasteries of the Moy greenway (Ballina-Killala) – only partly funded
Cork Harbour greenway – not funded
Broadmeadow way greenway (Malahide and Donabate) – not funded
Blessington greenway in Wicklow – not funded
Sligo greenway – not funded
Clifden to Letterfrack greenway in Galway – not funded
River Barrow greenway in Carlow – not funded
Joe O’Brien, a Green Party general election candidate for Dublin Fingal, said: “The decision by Minister Kelly to refuse funding to six of the ten greenway projects pinpointed by experts as best for funding requires urgent and detailed explanation in the Dáil. There is a real concern that public money has been grossly abused for crass electoral purposes. We were promised a democratic revolution by this Government, but it is clear that cronyism is alive and well when it comes to funding for local projects. Minister Kelly must answer these serious allegations without delay, lest he be held in the same contempt as James Reilly following his questionable allocation of funding to primary care centres in his own constituency.”
He added: “The decision not to allocate money to the Broadmeadow section of the Fingal coastal greenway between Malahide and Donabate will mean that what could and should have been the jewel in Fingal’s tourism crown will now not happen. I have been in contact with my colleague Cllr. David Healy, and it’s clear this decision will be a blow to local communities in Donabate and Malahide in particular. The Fingal coastal greenway could have run from Balbriggan to Sutton and has huge economic, employment, transport, social and health benefits that have now all been scuppered by Minister Kelly.”
COMMENT: Panel wrong on Galway-Dublin greenway funding, but political approach generally flawed
The pre-election cycling funding of €4 million which went to the Athlone to Mullingar greenway, against the priority list of an expert panel, could possibly be explained by the viewpoint that it makes up part of the Galway-Dublin cycle route, a top priority at policy level which even the then minister for transport had highlighted a number of times as a priority.
But relatively marginal bits of funding being spread across the country against the expert panel’s advice smacks of trying to buy votes, however unsuccessful. When one of the largest amounts — €1.9 million — went to the then junior transport minister’s constituency, questions have to be asked.
The problem is amplified by overall low levels of funding spread around too much. A million euro here and half a million there may sound like a lot but for long lengths of high quality greenways, it’s not. Add in the cost of bridges etc and the money quickly goes. The expert panel warned not to fund some projects because of a lack of detail or quality. It was wrong to not follow that advice.
If we want truly world class greenways the Government has a choice to increase overall funding or limit the funding to a smaller number of projects. The try to keep everybody happy option is not the kind of politics which the Government promised.