Why urban environmentalists threaten Connemara's future

Double standards seem to apply when considering the future of the west of Ireland

It seems Connemara is just one big special area of conservation thanks to our Dublin-based masters. And sure isn’t it right there is concern for the bog cotton, the pearl mussels, the common lizard, the snails, and a host of other creepy crawlies?

The only worry Insider has is what about the people in this disadvantaged region? Are they not permitted to live a fulfilling existence where they were born and bred? Does our native language not deserve to be conserved?

Apparently not. Look at the reaction when we dare suggest the widening of the torturous and dangerous N59 between Galway and Clifden. Our green-tinged politicians, national and Galway city-based, will insist that locals use public transport. If they bothered to enquire they would discover there had to be a major campaign in the Carna-Cill-Chiaráin parish to save its once-a-day bus route to Galway and back.

Widening the N59, including a cycleway and - if the politicians have any economic and environmental sense - a rail track would not decimate the fauna and flora of Connemara. There are thousands and thousands of acres of bog left virtually untouched and suitable habitat for our lizards.

No doubt there will be objections, just as there was from 'environmentalists' to the windmills destined for Sceirde Rock. Indeed, if that green energy development ever happens how will we ever get permission to lay cables through the SACs?

Believe it or not we 'natives' also love and appreciate our environment, but we also want the right to build a home here. However, getting planning permission on the 'reservation', as the cynics call it, is plagued with difficulties. Unlike golf courses, family homes for locals are not exempt from the SAC restrictions, and when it comes to creating a means for viable employment one can be sure the city-folk will be the first to object.

The case of Páirc na Mara, Cill Chiaráin

Páirc na Mara, Cill Chiaráin

The planned Páirc na Mara marine park in Cill Chiaráin located 70km west of Galway city is a case in point. Despite intending to develop this coastal brownfield site as a state-of-the-art, low carbon, marine innovation centre, with the aim of attracting a variety of marine-related business activities, an objection was lodged. The objection was aimed at the initial building of an admin block.

'Those who oppose the Western Rail Corridor want instead a greenway for tourists and exaggerate the impact tourism would have for the west of Ireland'

The Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages group expressed concern about the project damaging the Cill Chiaráin Bay and the Islands special areas of conservation, raising the unrelated issue of salmon farming in the area. In fact, the objection lodged by Peter Sweetman & Associates of Dublin related to the issue of sewage.

An Bord Planála upheld the objection going against the actual inspector’s recommendation. Many in the area believe the decision was political. Fish farms, it should be noted, played no part in the Bord’s decision. It is a shame, however, that there is this kneejerk reaction from these so-called environment-friendly objectors.

Carna, Connemara

It would be worth their while reading the 2018 winter issue of Inshore Ireland. The magazine conducted a long interview with two members of Údarás na Gaeltachta, who specifically dealt with the issue of fish farming: “In the biological sphere we’re looking at fish farming - onshore - at what can be done to improve environmental impact, such as developing technologies around cleaner fish, for example, which can reduce the need for anti-lice treatments on salmon farms. We can also look at developing new high-value products such as how to turn fish waste and other bi-products and seaweed into high-value products. There’s a whole range of opportunities that can be developed locally.”

Seaweed is a case in point. Like our cattle in the past, seaweed is currently exported and processed abroad. Páirc na Mara is an integral part of a strategy to produce high-value-products out of seaweed here at home.

As Inshore Ireland reports: Páirc na Mara has the potential to be enormous for the Carna-Cill Chiarán area and more broadly as a national resource for marine development… We’re trying to support a community where not everybody wants to be a fish farmer or a fisherman or a fish processor. There are people here in the Gaeltacht who want to be lawyers, accountants, technologists and engineers. There has to be a breadth of those skills and of those benefits to keep the bright young people here in the area and to keep 'an Gaeilge lárnach i saol na Gaeltachta'…The aim is to replicate it in other Gaeltachts and non-Gaeltacht areas. If this works it has the potential to be a game changer.”

'This blinkered urban view of rural Ireland perhaps helps explain the mystery as to why golf courses are exempt from the Connemara SACs'

Insider would have expect objectors to have looked deeper into the Páirc na Mara development and the role it intends to play in fish farming before objecting. However, this attitude towards job creation in the Gaeltacht reflects a severe lack of depth and suggests that so many urban dwelling politicos, view rural Ireland as nothing other than a tourist destination.

Opposing the Western Rail Corridor

A similar mindset exists among those who oppose the Western Rail Corridor. They want instead a greenway for the tourists and exaggerate the impact tourism would have for the west of Ireland.

In a well-argued letter to the Tuam Herald last year, Gerry Murray, a Sinn Féin county councillor from Charleston, Mayo, pointed out: “In any normal conventional economy, tourism is just one small part of a bigger economic picture. In Ireland it constitutes six per cent of GDP... The reality is that tourism will not save rural Ireland. Many towns with an abundance of natural amenities and visitor ceentres are struggling. Not to mention the towns that lack those facilities.

“The objective of the National Planning Framework is to deliver balanced regional development. In that context the strategy will have to deliver major investment in the drivers of economic growth such as rail, roads, airports, broadband and other vital infrastructure in the west of Ireland. Without such critical infrastructure, our rural towns and communities will not have a sustainable future in terms of investment and employment. If you want investment and employment, first you must invest in critical infrastructure to drive economic growth.

Greenway

"By any standards the Western Rail Corridor constitutes critical economic infrastructure...The greenway campaign might be well intentioned, but sadly it plays right into the hands of a Dublin political and bureaucratic elite that has consistently opposed the concept of balanced regional development...The people of Galway, Mayo, and Sligo deserve better. Second class infrastructure for second class citizens is no longer an option.”

This blinkered urban view of rural Ireland perhaps helps explain the mystery as to why golf courses are exempt from the Connemara SACs. It means our Dublin masters can relax playing golf when they stay in their holiday homes out Ballyconneely way.

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