COMMENT & ANALYSES: Transport and tourism minister Paschal Donohoe confirmed to RTE Radio One this morning that the funding for the western section of the Dublin to Galway greenway is now on hold.
IrishCycle.com readers will have read recently that the minister and Department of Transport were building up to such a move. These hints were warning to any locals interested in building the Athlone to Galway section in the short term.
Opposition from farmers along the route is intense, and local political support is close to nonexistent. Blaming the minister for this is wrong.
As we wrote at the end of last year, claims of greenways putting farmers “out of business” and “destroying” farms is over the top — coming from the the Irish Farming Association, it was irresponsible.
The suggestions to route the greenway along the old Dublin to Galway road were, maybe, well meaning. But those who suggested such were complely missing the point of a tourism-focused and family friendly greenway. Not to mention that such a route would be placed between the roadways and the driveways to a very large number of houses and farms. That would have been impractical and possable more distruptive to farms than a route via fields.
Some in rural Ireland have taken bunker-like mentality to a number of issues and this does not help with greenway issues. Irish Farming Association stoking up flames with hyperbole does not help, but this is made worse again by reasonable local and regional politicians jumping on bandwagons in fear that they will lose out to other politicians who object to almost everything if they can see it as helping them get elected.
If the opposition was only a county in the middle of the country and all other areas were mainly supportive of the project, then the minister would have grounds to push ahead. But without any notable support west of the River Shannon, the minister was correct in standing down funding.
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The next steps for the project is to progress the sections east of Athlone — including in the Dublin commuter area which should have great cycling as commuting potential, and a much needed link into the centre of Athlone.
Options will also be looked at for re-starting the greenway between Athlone and Galway. However, the Department of Transport should also look at re-routing the greenway from County Galway, which has been relatively unsupportive, to County Mayo, a country which understands greenways more than most (Disclosure: the author of this article is Mayo-based).
Why County Mayo? It’s not much further than Galway City and the council are already developing a network of greenways around the county. The Great Western Greenway out of Westport to Achill Island was the start of that. But progress has also started around the county’s largest towns, Castlebar and Ballina. The council have said that the Great Western Greenway brand is to be used for the county’s network, not just the original route.
If nothing else looking at re-routing the first national greenway to County Mayo would be a good back up if there is no progress in Galway. It would also act as an incentive for progress in Galway. In the long-run we need a network of such routes linking into counties Galway, Mayo, Sligo etc. So, if Galway lacks the support, it’s only right to look elsewhere.