The Western Rail Trail campaign — The campaign to utilise the route of the closed railway from Athenry to Sligo as a greenway until such time as a railway might be possible again has welcomed the election results in Sligo, Galway and Mayo.
The Sligo Greenway already had the support of Sligo County Council for a greenway from Collooney to Charlestown on the Mayo border for the Sligo section of the long distance greenway from Collooney to Athenry. This support will continue with the new council. Sligo County Council is now waiting on a decision from the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport on the application for project funding under the national greenway strategy.
In Galway the campaign for The Quiet Man Greenway which is the Galway brand name for the greenway from Athenry to Milltown on the Mayo border on the route of the closed railway had a stunning result, according to Brendan Quinn of the Western Rail Trail Campaign.
“The Quiet Man Greenway Campaign contacted every candidate standing at the recent council elections for Galway county council to secure a commitment to the Quiet Man Greenway project before polling day. A simple question was put to candidates. “If elected will you support the development of the Quiet Man Greenway on the route of the closed railway from Athenry to Milltown.”
“With the responses received, it meant the campaign could give supporters a clear message. These are the candidates that support us and these are the ones that don’t, so please make your preferences accordingly.
“With all the results in, it is clear the message got through. The campaign says that 23 of the 37 elected Galway county councillors have committed to support The Quiet Man Greenway project in the new council chamber,” he said.
“It is a very clear message.” said Mr Quinn. “What’s more important is the support for the Quiet Man Greenway is almost unanimous in the electoral districts which the Quiet Man Greenway will run through; the combined level of support in Athenry Oranmore, Gort Kinvara, Loughrea, and Tuam is 20 councillors in favour and four against, and we hope the four against might be persuaded yet of the value of this project for East Galway.
In Mayo the local greenway campaign groups, The Kiltimagh Greenway Group and the Swinford to Charlestown Greenway group concentrated efforts on candidates in the Swinford Electoral District which has four councillors. Two of the four elected councillors, Michael Smyth and John Caulfield both gave commitments before the election to press Mayo county council to review their stance on this matter and to raise the potential for a feasibility study.
“This is a breakthrough in Mayo” said Mr Quinn, “where the county council opposition to the greenway from the planning department and council executive has been consistent. We hope the matter will at least be debated by Mayo councillors now” he added.
“The independent economic review of the closed railway from Athenry to Claremorris currently being carried out by International consulting company EY DKN, needs to look at what has happened in Galway East. Business owners have been telling the newly-elected councillors what the economic impact of a greenway will be. They want to see it happen.
“An economic review of the closed railway needs to consider the economic impact of alternative uses of the closed railway as well. That is what people have unanimously voted for in electoral districts from Athenry to Milltown. In every town and village the greenway will pass through, the people have supported greenway-supporting councillors. Tourism is critical for the Atlantic Economic Corridor and a greenway from Collooney to Athenry would be a tourism driver for the entire Atlantic Economic Corridor. It now has to become top of the agenda for the economic review of the closed railway. With the recent election results the greenway now has to be considered a real economic option,” he concluded.
Minister for the Diaspora and International Development Ciaran Cannon has said that all stakeholders must now make a ‘concerted push’ to ensure the project becomes a reality.
“Now that the dust has begun to settle on the local election ballot boxes, I’m very pleased to see that over 60% of Galway`s county councillors are, based on their responses so far, in favour of the Quiet Man Greenway.
“This is a very encouraging figure for those who have kept the campaign going to see this amenity become a reality and the time has come for a concerted push towards this end.
“Notwithstanding the ongoing rail review, all councillors, both long-serving and newly elected, need to consider and review their stances on the issue.” he said.