COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Standing in the way of the East Cork Greenway for a slim chance of of a railway to Youghal is well-meaning but misguided.
A local Green Party general election candidate, Liam Quaide, is pushing to keep the greenway off the disused 22km railway between Youghal and Midleton. The Evening Echo reports that fellow Green Party members Dan Boyle and party leader Eamon Ryan, and Sinn Féin’s Pat Buckley turn up to a meeting to support the idea of preserving the route.
Quaide is quoted as telling the newspaper the his party “don’t want an either-or” and the people at the meeting saw value in greenways. He just doesn’t want the greenway built on the former railway line.
He said: “But it seems to be coming at such a high price, that we’re trading a potentially essential public service for an important tourist amenity. That trade-off doesn’t seem right.”
There’s two core problems with what Quaide said.
First, as local independent Councillor Mary Linehan-Foley pointed out: “Rather than look at a derelict site for another 10 years while we wait for a railway, we’ll take the Greenway project.”
Cllr Linehan-Foley has campaigned for the railway to be restored for 17 years since she was first elected but sees the greenway as a better option in the short-term.
The hard truth which might not be liked locally is that the population in Youghal is not large enough to support a modern railway line, and, even if the route to Youghal was reopened based on planned growth, the villages near it would definitely not support a railway station. The town it self has less than 8,000 living in it.
The next problem is viewing the railway as “potentially an essential public service” and the greenway as just “an important tourist amenity.”
That is missing the point of massive community and regional value greenways have already proven in Waterford next door as well as in Mayo and the midlands.
Greenways allow children to cycle to their friends when the roads close to them are unthinkable for children to be using, and local adults use greenways a huge amount for walking and cycling.
The community and health benefits are undervalued by those not close to them. And the commuting and transport benefits could be a lot greater if the design was right and links are made to schools and work places.
We should follow the example of the Dutch and enable greenways and a wider network of rural routes to help teenagers, commuters and others without access to cars to be able to cycle from rural areas into towns and cities.
It’s disappointing to see this from a Green Party member, but we’d be rightly accused of being more biased if we didn’t point it out.
But, in any case, there’s no “trade-off”. The railway isn’t coming in the next 10 years or more, and, in that time, the area could decline more. A greenway could help stop and reverse the decline, and it could be opened in 2 years. How willing are people to put their bets on a railway which may never come?