Galway to Athlone greenway consultation: Map pulled from display as protest turns “electric”

Gardai are expected to be present at public consultation for the over 200km Galway to Athlone Greenway today after maps and information sheets were pulled down from displays at an event yesterday.

Four public consultation events are to take place this week after the ‘Emerging Preferred Route’ was revealed on Monday. This started at the Oranmore Lodge Hotel yesterday.

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Today (Wednesday) there will be another consultation information event in Gort at Lady Gregory Hotel from 3-8pm. This will be followed at Portumna Town Hall on Thursday, March 30 at 3-8pm; and at Shearwater Hotel in Ballinasloe, on Friday, March 31 at 3-8pm.

Several people who contacted IrishCycle.com yesterday and this morning outlined how they felt intimated, how they felt they couldn’t express support to the project team at the event and how they left early than they would have otherwise because of the protest.

Cllr Joe Byrne (FG), a Galway County Council councillor, said: “I wasn’t there and I don’t know exactly what happened, but the one thing I will say is that I’m very supportive of a number of land owners, homeowners and community groups who have a number of issues with what’s being proposed in this preferred route, but I think protesting inside in a hall, maybe the use of loud noise, I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

“I think we need to work with the project team to try and get a resolution for everybody,” he told IrishCycle.com. “I have to acknowledge that some groups are very annoyed over the process, but I think we have to be respectful and work together to try and resolve it.”

Cllr Byrne said that he has issues with the greenway coming too close to houses and views that as an invasion of privacy, he said that severance of farmland should be avoided at all costs and questioned the greenway routed via environmentally sensitive and protected areas.

Many of the protesters have outlined that they are not against the greenway in principle, but have various concerns including the use of farmland, complaints of the lack of consultation while the consultation process is ongoing, environmental concerns, and claims about the risk of anti-social behaviour and health and safety issues.

The issue was also covered on Galway Bay FM’s Keith Finnegan show this morning, a recording of which can be listened to online. Galway Bay FM said that descriptions of the protest that were given to them include it being “electric”, “boisterous”, and “mayhem” when some protesters entered the building, it’s unclear how many of the protesters were involved with this.

Some of the protesters interviewed by Galway Bay FM contradicted each other with some saying that the project team have been sometimes responsive to local concerns and willing to adjust the route and others claiming that is not happening at all. The estimates of the number of protesters who were outside varies from around 30-50 people.

Declan Kenny, a farmer with land close to the route, today told the presenter of the show that he pulled down that maps. He said that the map showed land that he farms. He said that the route “severs” an access road to land that he farms which is family-owned.

On Galway Bay FM, Kenny said: “I didn’t have to ring you, I didn’t have to make myself know, you have to understand how angry I am that I’m willing to make myself known. I’m not going to hide behind something I done. I done it because I’m angry.”

“When I went inside I seen a map on the wall [which showed the route] severing my land, severing an access road to my land without any consultation. So I got angry and took the map down. Without consent, my map was on the wall,” he said.

Kenny said: “Last Wednesday or Thursday I got a phone call from a neighbour to tell me where it [the route] was] going and I rang a lead engineer on the project to ask him why didn’t he ring me and he said it doesn’t concern you, and that’s why I’m angry.”

Asked does that mean he should go and rip the map off the wall, he said: “Sure, it’s my private property.”

Asked if they had not been contacted by the project team, Kenny said that the project team had “not got out on the ground and spoken to the people.”

He added: “It’s the stress, we’re living with this, we’re not sleeping at night, it’s putting a strain on our families, relationships everything. This isn’t proper. It isn’t right.”

In a recorded interview from the consultation event last night, Michael Kelly, project coordinator and senior executive engineer at Westmeath County Council, said that the project is at the preferred route stage which means over the next 18 months they are preparing a planning application to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála.

“We originally had a constraints study consultation back in 2020 followed by five route corridors with a second public consultation, then a third public consultation last year,” he said when talking to Galway Bay FM.

Kelly said that around half of the route is planned to be on State-owned lands. He said: “To connect those lands, the remaining part of the cycleway had to traverse privately owned lands, and for the last year we have been in consultation with landowners trying to come up with a route and minimise the impact on these landowners by traversing around the perimeter of their landholding where possible. And that’s what we have on display.”

He said since last February that they have had a team meeting with landowners and that the team has worked in accordance with the best practice for greenways which was agreed upon between the Government and farming groups.

7 comments

  1. Have we learned anything about lack of consultation with local communities in the general sense?
    I’d love to cycle this route, but not at a cost to the locals who’ve lived in quiet rural communities for ages. Its their neighborhood and that has to be the first consideration. Though I hasten to add, this is not like the Sandymount car-driving ideologs who just hate bikes, blocking ‘essential’ city routes. Its that mans farming land and I say that takes precedence over my non-essential leisure route. Consultation and compromise, hopefully.

    Reply
  2. Landowners have campaigned for a hybrid type route. Greenway through state owned land and commuter cycle routes to get around areas of contention.
    Landowners identified such a route and presented it to the Project Team last year. At that meeting Galway CC’s Derek Pender accepted this hybrid route approach as the solution to get the project over the line. Project Team have now decided to ignore this alternative.
    In Oranmore last evening Project Team confirmed that they were building COMPLETE greenway through farmland and would not accept any alternatives.
    Sadly this has put the green way project on a collision course with landowners.
    Minister’s office must now intervene and review its instruction to Project Team.

    Reply
    • Hybrid is really the only alternative here, along with a fair more direct route between Galway to Athlone .

      The prosposed route isn’t remotely realistic either . Far too long for what is suppose to be Dublin to Galway route . Galway is a very touristy county and if people neglected to travel to many of these out of the way places that this greenway proposes to feature , why would they want to go there now because of the greenway ?

      This project is years behind and people can’t be critical of the landowners here . If their land was stoned infertile or boggy land, they might have less complaints but that is good farmland , their business and their homes . Why would they area to partition of their land ? They have a hard enough time keeping trespassers and tree huggers away

      Reply
  3. I’m a regular weekend road cyclist and would be from the Athlone area which means I have a huge selection of routes to take east and west of the Shannon ; I’m very familiar with the roads around south Roscommon, and north and east Galway , and frequent a lot of the many of the areas of the proposed cycle way to Galway . Most of the roads and lane ways are grand for cycling. Obviously I am not advocating that they be used for a greenway, which I want to see , but, I am very sympathetic towards the land owners here.

    I want this project to work. I have seen what a huge asset the Mullingar – Athlone greenway has been, and also the fantastic canal route from Clondara- Mullingar – Maynooth route. (Even better than the former ) But we need cooperation from everyone as private land will be needed if he don’t want a more direct route close to either the rail line or the R446 Road

    That’s valuable grassland too unlike other far, areas of Galway . The groups should be doing everything to keep the land owners happy and to consult with them. I’d be furious too if plans were made public of preferred routes and my prior consent or approval wasn’t obtained or I was never consulted . That’s unreasonably putting public pressure on the land owners who have a strong history of standing up for themselves via the IFA . They will not be defeated . Extremely arrogant stuff .

    The privacy thing is legitimate . Only slight saving grace is that these routes aren’t and won’t used heavily by cyclists (bar the good summer days ) and would be too far out for many walkers but that’s not the point.

    I was absolutely shocked to see the lack of privacy and preparations afforded to residents along the old Mullingar line in built up in Athlone areas (the most recent extended path from the white gates to Dunnes stores in Athlone) Lovely track but people were able to see inside peoples back gardens and homes and no facilities were made for them immediately (obviously blinds and fences have are now in place to give some privacy ) . To be fair to the town and county council , their record with this project has been excellent .

    While I would use the proposed route to Galway if it is constructed, I think some of the choices are beyond ridiculous taking into account the fact that it’s a Galway to Dublin route.

    It won’t revive the villages in the middle of no where that it hoped for . Sorry, it won’t.

    It’s not even close to rail stations (eg Athenry ) or place like Loughrea .

    Athlone to Ballinasloe , the two BIGGEST Towns and hinterland on the Dublin to Galway route before one arrives in Galway city won’t even be connected in a more directed way,. why would you go through Ballinasloe if you are going to galway on this preferred route , extra 10km between Athlone and Ballinasloe (after cycling down to Shannonbridge) . Surprised Ballinasloe people are happy with this . They just have a fork road that will have to take them down to Shannon bridge area before cutting up through the bogs south of Athlone. Better off cycling the R446 , quicker and more direct

    Not to mention the fact that the areas south of Athlone (Clonown) are under water for most parts of the year along the Shannon .

    If the map is to be taken literally , one will have to cross Shannonbridge not once but twice . Good luck building a bridge close to the one already in place for cars (another rail bridge exists for the b n mona track but it’s near the power station )

    I get the importance of linking close to tourist spots like Clonmacnoise and the fact that there is public land but the route should look to cut across over to thE river suck asap after it comes out of Clonown – Moore , without the need to cross the Shannon and ,get up to Ballinasloe more directly via their canal .

    it’s the Dublin to Galway route, not the discover Galway route. (Personally the aforementioned areas are my regular cycling routes so I’m happy out personally )

    If Galway CC and their people want to extend the joys of the Greenway to out of the way areas (most of the south Galway places that are part of the preferred route) let them carry out those projects separately at another time .

    Just get a more direct Galway Dublin route and work from that . Galway have delayed this project for years now – I don’t want to criticise the farmers and landowners as I accept their complaints

    We clearly haven’t learned much from the two major floods that have hit the Shannon region in the last 10 years . Much of the proposed route plans to track along the river Shannon
    How are areas like Mellick able to cope with floods around the Shannon. ?

    Reply
    • To be clear on my criticism of the long diverted route proposed for Athlone and Galway; I fully acknowledge how scenic south Galway is especially closer to the Clare and Oranmore area . As great as the Mullingar Athlone greenway is, it’s boring (but still extremely valuable – tricked is to get familiar with the quite country lanes for nice diversions)

      I am fully aware of the benefits for walkers , school goers ,cyclists etc of the areas , but it should not neglect the far more populous Galway areas closer to the rail lines ie Athenry , Loughrea etc . From a selfish point of view, I’d be in my element tackling all of this route in one go etc .

      But look at the bigger picture

      What happens of you get a bike puncture that can’t be fixed or you just ran out of Energy ? Good luck tracking back to rail line town area (oranmore will be way out ) or a bike shop (the few that still are open) Bus Éireann no longer have buses going between the cities anymore …

      loads of people from Dublin will cycle down or up the grand canal or royal canal but they often take the train down to mullingar or Tullamore for one leg of the route . You want this to be used all year around not just for a hundred (or two hundred ) odd hardcore cyclists who would ride all the route from Dublin to Galway once every few years .

      Reply
  4. I’m not going to reply to everything here, but I find the idea that a council or any State agency would not be able to publish an ‘Emerging Preferred Route’ without having full permission from all land owners very strange and unrealistic.

    Even smaller projects usually do not full agreement from land owners. This project is over 200km long. What some people are expecting here is impossible.

    What some people really seem to be saying is that Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) should not be used for land for greenways — but, beyond a few politician at the fringes, this is a legally and politically settled issue.

    In his Supreme Court ruling, Justice Richard Humphreys couldn’t be clearer on this: “The applicants quibble with the reference to community need, but that is only a recognition of the reality and a legitimate consideration. Necessity for compulsory acquisition does not require absolute necessity. It requires a determination that the acquisition is desirable or expedient having regard to public benefits such as the creation of public infrastructure and meeting community need. That involves a judgement as to public benefit and does not require some sort of artificially high threshold like a finding that the existing infrastructure is dangerous.”

    https://irishcycle.com/2022/02/08/supreme-court-rejecting-to-hear-case-against-south-kerry-greenway-means-cpos-are-firmly-on-the-table-for-greenways/

    Reply
  5. One other thing: Villages along both the Waterford and Mayo Greenways have been given a real boost and some transformed because of the greenways — you’re really not listening to locals if you’re denying this.

    Reply

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