Greenway farce shows our politicians can always hold us back

Sometimes, we get the politicians we deserve. Sometimes, we don’t deserve the politicians that we get...

I didn’t think it was possible for the county councillors to mess this one up. It wasn’t as if it was going to cost them anything. It was being five points up with a minute left in added time. It seemed they were going to have to come up with something ingenious to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory. It was if they were going to adopt that old maxim “always look a gift horse in the arse.”

It seemed fairly simple — it should have been something that was voted on after five minutes of discussion. It was a plan to investigate just how viable an almost certainly lucrative greenway from Athenry to Milltown would be, giving a boost to two towns (Athenry and Tuam ) which could do with a leg up at the moment. Just months after the Apple decision, at a time when the name of Tuam is inextricably linked to the sad events in the Mother and Baby Home. Our councillors should have been bending over backwards to help this section of east Galway. Get the study done, and then go grab some of that €53 million pot that Lord Ross has set aside for greenways.

This was not a time for jealousy at the trough. All they were being asked on was to vote for a study that somebody else would pay for. And even if the findings of that study were not to their liking, they would have ample opportunity again to vote it down at a later stage. It was a no-brainer. Not a time for petty politics. Not a time for the possibility of a shaft. If our councillors are unable to see the whole county as their domain, and not just the line that stops outside their village, then are they what we need. There were smiles and smirks after Monday’s meeting. A delight that something had been denied rather than facilitated.

There is no point in going over the only too-obvious benefits of the Greenway, wherever it is, Connemara or Tuam, Ballinasloe or Clifden. If we have 100 greenways, all the better. But this was not about that. This was about one which is almost shovel-ready. Get that one over the line and you could link the others and develop them one after another. Remember the advice of Francis Brennan to struggling hoteliers in At Your Service. Do up one or two rooms and make them earn, and then those two rooms will pay for doing up the others.

The decision taken by the Galway County Council members to look at funding for EVERY greenway in the county is a Mi-Wadi solution — watered down to the point of nothing, reducing the chances for any greenway to get funding, crowding the trough to the point where the snouts knock it over, and nobody eats.

In a country which has already banned workplace smoking and has made moves this week to point out the carcinogenic effect of alcohol consumption, the benefits of denying thousands of users an exercise space are irrational, just so that Godot-like, we can all wait for a train that never arrived in the good old days, and is unlikely to ever do so again.

If I genuinely believed that what happened on Monday was for the benefit of the whole county, I would say so, but it seems obvious that there was an intention to deny the Quiet Man Greenway, for some reason, political, territorial, or otherwise. Is this what local government is meant to be about? Oneupmanship? And not pulling on the maroon jersey.

It is no wonder that the rest of the country is effectively laughing at whatever fiasco Galway tends to embroil itself in. I despair at the lost potential of Galway; at the lack of big-picture focus. However, I think that the greenway will eventually work despite the efforts of our councillors to deny it. That hopefully, the viability of the greenways will be shown up in this diluted version of what should have been. And while this goes on, tens of thousands of tourists will drive past Galway and on to the Mayo and Midlands Greenways and our councillors will clap themselves on the back and say ‘fair play lads, we pulled off that stroke...”

Remember, thousands marched in Tuam last weekend in support of the greenway. Nobody marched for the trains that are not coming back.

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