Athlone Extinction Rebellion founder and Green Party General Election candidate, Julie O’Donoghue, believes that investment in greenways and ecotourism should form part of a just transition plan for the Midlands and that plans for a Mid-Shannon Wilderness Park for the Lough Ree region need to be prioritised due to the potential for jobs, recreation and biodiversity protection.
“I attended a series of lectures on Saturday on the future of the landscape across the Midlands, where Donal Mac An Bheatha of Longford County Council gave an inspiring presentation on his vision and plans for ecotourism, employment and recreation in the Mid-Shannon and Lough Ree region.
“With Bord na Móna bringing forward its plans to end peat extraction, a greenway could be developed from the existing rail network. This would be part of an overall ecotourism and recreation offering which would include our rivers, rewetted wetlands, woodlands, lakes and islands.
“This is a beautiful region where the landscape is perfectly suited for walkers and cyclists of all abilities and has huge potential to be developed as part of the Fáilte Ireland Hidden Heartlands brand. A greenway/blueway network and wilderness park would bring enormous benefits - direct and indirect employment, recreation opportunities, health benefits, a sustainable transport option and biodiversity protection.
“I visited a section of the rail network on Sunday, which crosses the Shannon at the Bord na Móna bridge near Ballyleague, Lanesborough and Cloontuskert. Looking out over the Shannon, the exciting potential of the greenway network and wilderness park for the mid-shannon/lough ree region was very clear to me.
“In the context of the planned closure of the ESB power stations and ending of peat extraction by Bord na Móna, I believe that developing and investing in initiatives such as a network of greenways for the midlands, with the employment opportunities that it would bring, should form part of the plan for a just transition for communities in the midlands.
Developing greenway networks is a priority for the Green Party and we want to invest 20 percent of the national transport budget in walking and cycling,” Ms. O’Donoghue remarked.