TD calls for end to current Dublin to Galway Greenway route

Ireland’s first cross-country greenway should make better use of country roads and state-owned lands, a Galway-based Fine Gael TD has said.

Ciaran Cannon said in a statement that the proposed greenway route from Ballinasloe to Galway City is now “completely unviable” due to the level of opposition. 

The TDs’ remarks came after Galway County Council’s head of roads and transport section, Liam Gavin called on elected councillors to be positive about the economic and social benefits from the provision of the greenway through East Galway. He said 40% of landowners already support the route.

There has, however, been a sustained campaign from elements of the Irish Farmers’ Association which has opposed the use of the CPO land acquisition system for greenways. 

Deputy Cannon said he had organised a meeting with Ministers Paschal Donohoe and Michael Ring last May to allow farmer representatives to voice their concerns about the proposed route. Cannon said: “As a direct result of that meeting Minister Donohoe initiated a new process of engagement with landowners along the current route. He will shortly receive the final report from that process of engagement and must then make a decision on how best to proceed with the delivery of the greenway project. Deputy Cannon has met with numerous landowners over the last month and is now firmly of the opinion that the proposed route is unviable and cannot be delivered.”

Deputy Cannon said: “I have always been a strong advocate of the concept of greenways and I was delighted to see a proposal from Minister Donohoe to invest in a greenway linking Dublin with Galway. East Galway has never had any kind of significant tourism investment of this nature and to have a greenway linking our towns and villages would also provide a wonderful amenity for local families to avail of.”

“However, I am bitterly disappointed with the manner in which the current route has been designed and the kind of interaction that has taken place with local landowners. Long before the design process commenced, those responsible for that process should had sat down with landowners and sought their opinions and guidance as to how we could best deliver a greenway through the East Galway countryside. Instead, landowners were completely excluded from the design process and were presented with a route that had the potential to seriously threaten their livelihoods. What really mystifies me is that in designing the route from Dublin to Athlone, extensive use was made of state owned land. Yet, when we crossed the Shannon at Athlone, that concept was abandoned and a line was drawn at random across the countryside, making no use of state owned land and splitting farms in two. Having met with numerous landowners I am now in no doubt that the current route is completely unviable and should simply be abandoned as an option for the delivery of a new greenway”, said Deputy Cannon.

The TD, however, also rejects farmer’s suggestions that the old Dublin to Galway national road route be used.

He said: “To pursue the option of a greenway along the hard shoulder of the N6 would be a complete waste of resources as such a route wouldn’t be remotely attractive to typical greenway users. There are many more options that should be looked at including very significant tracts of land owned by Bord na Mona, Coillte and Iarnrod Eireann. We also need to use our quiet country lanes, of which there are many in East Galway. Some of these roads see very little traffic and travel through our very unique and beautiful countryside. In short, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and use a little common sense and diplomacy to deliver a new greenway that can enhance all of our lives.”

Deputy Cannon added: “I’m confident that the report to be presented by the NRA [TII] to Minister Donohoe in early October will outline that there is major opposition to the current route and I will be asking him to get a new design process underway and to ensure that it is an effective process which includes landowners from the very beginning”.

15 Comments

  1. Good to see a reasonably balanced comment from a Galway politician on this issue! Glad to see local quiet roads getting a mention! It needs to move!

  2. The Deputy is ahead of the game. Public lands and quiet country roads are the way to go. Permissive wayleaves which can be closed off by disgruntled farmers -as happened with the GWG- are not the way to build reliable cycling infrastructure.

  3. I’m amazed at the continued resistance of this heavily subsidised group to this important public project. Forty years of agricultural subsidies have completely destroyed the business acumen of the farming community and turned our farmers in self entitled parasites. Had they any business acumen they would be delighted with a Greenway going through their farms. Had they any social conscience they would welcome the opportunities the Greenway would bring for unemployed members of their own community.

    According to our Constitution the land of Ireland belongs to the people of Ireland. Not only do we own the land but we subsidise these people who are occupying our land and resisting this important project. If we were a normal country the concerns of this group of pathetic parasites would be swept aside and the land would have been CPO’d long ago.

  4. It’s very encouraging to see constructive commentary coming forward. All too often these debates become polarised for reasons that are easily overcome. In this instance it seems the main problem was that landowners were not sufficiently in the design loop. I would have thought this is the process currently underway.

    I agree with the idea of using country lanes, these are ideal cycle routes. Very pleasant to travel along and generally well surfaced. My concern is the safety aspect and the prospect of “boy racers” also using these routes. I also believe that it’s not too difficult to put in place appropriate calming measures to prevent this activity.

    Delighted to see the idea of using the hard shoulder of the N6 getting a knock. That is a mad idea. Part of the Mayo Greenway is designed like this and it’s the worst bit. I hope we don’t repeat that mistake anywhere else.

  5. This project was doomed from the moment the NRA were put in charge of it, they have completely the wrong attitude. It was treated like a “mini motorway” project, drawing coloured lines on maps and dropping them out of the sky on an unsuspecting farming community.

    At one of the public consultation events, I asked one of the council engineers about using country lanes and booreens. I was told they were unsuitable because roadside hedges “blocked” the view of the landscape. It was abundantly clear therefore that the design team had absolutely no idea what they were talking about.

    At the same time we have “rural recreation officers” working with rural communities up and down the country to deliver local walking routes using existing lanes and rights of way.

  6. @Hugh in Germany they apply legal restrictions that make the lanes local traffic only, or agricultural traffic only. A few strategic road closures could reinforce this. The lanes remain open to cyclists and comprise a large part of some long distance cycling routes.

  7. Many quiet country lanes are very, very busy with two way traffic, for short periods of time when farmers are cutting silage and spreading slurry. Modern silage trailers and slurry tankers are huge machines that fill the full width of country lanes. If the weather is wet, or was recently wet, this kind of farm work will leave lots of muck on the road, often for quite long distances. This work goes on at the height of the tourist season.

    Also many of our quiet country lanes are festooned with ugly new houses, ugly farmyards and other ugly modern developments. A greenway across farmland will be much more photogenic, allowing cycle tourists to move around without being constantly reminded about the deficiencies of the Irish planning system.

    Also many unrestrained dogs live along quiet country lanes. I cycle toured almost 900 miles in rural England and was not once chased by a dog. It’s hard to cycle 5 miles on most Irish lanes without being chased by at least one dog.

    During hedge cutting season country lanes are a nightmare for punctures, far worse than any urban road surface. Even expensive puncture resistant tyres can’t resist the whitethorn and blackthorn debris left on lanes by hedge cutting. On wide roads you can manoeuvre around it on lanes you have to ride over it.

    I am a daily rural cycle commuter and an occasional long distance cycle tourist. I cycle over 7000 miles a year, the majority of it on quiet country roads. Three times in recent years I cycled 100 miles to Westport, just so I could enjoy a day of motor traffic free cycling in the Mayo countryside, I wanted to see more of the beauty of rural Mayo, less of the planning mistakes of recent decades and not spend the day constantly alert for motor vehicles.

    The Greenway experience is special. A route based on country lanes will be a poor substitute for a proper off road greenway and it will not excite the interest of the massive continental cycle tourist market.

  8. Mallorca attracts around 80,000 cyclists every year and the vast majority use the public roads not cycle paths.

  9. The Great Western Greenway in Co Mayo has between 120,000 to 200,000 per year.

    That’s just one greenway.

  10. That’s between 330 and 550 every single day of the year. Sounds highly implausible, but il take your word ..!!

  11. Unlike roads, greenways can attract large amounts of children, and adults of a wide range of ages and abilities.

    Clearly it’s not x number per day every day — there’s seasonal, event-only, weekly and daily peaks which brings the average up.

  12. Christopher Dolan November 29, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    “According to our Constitution the land of Ireland belongs to the people of Ireland. Not only do we own the land but we subsidise these people who are occupying our land and resisting this important project.”

    The arrogance. If that was so, there would be no need for Compulsory Purchase Orders in order to carry out “the public good” nor would we need concepts like trespassing or have the need for legal concepts like adverse possession.. What the writer Kevin Sweeney , conveniently ignores is that same Constitution also refer to Individuals right to property, privacy , privacy of dwelling, and right of livelihood.

    There does not seem be to much consideration to the fact that farmlands that are literally “split in two” will have to go through the expense of erecting fences/ditches etc to ensure that their livestock do not become a danger to the users of the path way. For understandable reasons, farmers are terrified of letting walkers onto their land for fear of getting sued for any injuries.

    With regard to subsidies, considering that agriculture is one of Ireland’s primary economic sectors you are out of line! So you the idea of “parasites”. But sure, attitudes like that will surely get the farmers on side.

  13. Christopher Dolan November 29, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    “The Great Western Greenway in Co Mayo has between 120,000 to 200,000 per year.That’s just one greenway.”

    How much of that greenway was through private land? Through private farmland? Easy to implement no doubt, comapared to the issues of what is proposed with the Galway to Athlone Route (which , despite my negativity, hope goes through)

    Doubt much profitable farming bar rearing of sheep can be done on much of that land in Mayo. No comparison with the land west of Athlone to Athenry

    The figures are some exaggeration

  14. @Christopher re “The figures are some exaggeration” — no they are not! The lower end would just require an average of say around 500 per day in the peak season (and less off peak). But if you cycle the route you could nearly meet that many people in a morning. That number will include people cycling the full route and people cycling smaller sections.

    Last time we were driving to Achill we passed out around 20-30 people who were cycling coming off the greenway where it ends just before the bridge to the island. There were many more behind them.

  15. Re: how much was private land for the Great Western Greenway: the vast bulk of it was along private land.

    Re “splitting in two” of farms — that’s why farmers should work within the official processes to look at better routes around or between farms.

    Re “expense of erecting fences/ditches etc to ensure that their livestock do not become a danger to the users of the path way” — this is not the case, the Government / council will pay for this, as has happened already on greenways in the west, midlands and the south of the country.

    Re: “For understandable reasons, farmers are terrified of letting walkers onto their land for fear of getting sued for any injuries” — I fully understand this and ageee it’s not as black and white as some think. But with greenways I understand that councils have insurance which includes people trespassing/ mistakenly wandering off.

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