When they come to write the history of Galway 100 years from now, we can be fairly sure that the legacy of an event tomorrow (Friday ) will be writ large on those pages.
The unveiling of the plans to redevelop Galway Port into a dockside city, capable of accommodating large cruise liners, each of which can bring 2,000 tourists, is one of the most exciting and important announcements in the city for some time. On top of that, the port will become a hub for marine research, commercial vessels, and for private pleasure sailing, with a plan to build more than 200 berths for small to medium pleasure boats.
It is a massive project that will dominate construction, debate, growth, and prosperity for the bulk of the next decade, but if completed successfully, it will provide the impetus that will secure the wealth and cultural energy of Galway for the bulk of this coming century.
In simple terms it is a major physical infrastructure project as it will see the reclamation of more than 40 acres of land along the seafront, allowing Galway to compete with other ports and to negotiate with cruise liners, promising them immediate access for passengers to the Burren, Connemara, and Mayo.
No doubt there will be many objections to the proposal and there will be a lot of hearings, directives, and opinions between now and the arrival of the Queen of the Seas. And to ensure that there is a greater chance of consensus, the Galway Harbour Company is welcoming feedback, suggestions, and input from the public to ensure that the final proposed development is a success. According to Harbour Company CEO, Eamon Bradshaw, all the feedback from the public will be examined and considered further prior to the formal planning application being put before An Bord Pleanala in mid-April.
So if you have an opinion on it, get along to the Centre Pier building and see what the plan is like, form an opinion and let them know what you think. Gathering all opinions now at this stage, can save years and millions in planning objections in the years to come.
What may have held developments like this back in the years up to now is the lack of self belief that Galway could ever be a major player in the marine sport and marine leisure sector, but that premise has been blown out of the water by the success of the Volvo Ocean Race 2009 and, even more importantly, the granting of the finish of VOR 2012. If this gets the go-ahead, Galway will be to all intents and purposes futureproofed, creating a new line of commerce that will allow the city to remain a place where people want to work and live.
This is not just a scheme to make rich people richer; if successful it will allow the whole city to be energised. Bringing in thousands of visitors every week is good for everyone. It allows business to plan and develop, it allows arts groups to find an audience for their efforts, and for the rest of us, it will allow us to enjoy the sort of Galway that we want to enjoy.
Galway needs this project now more than ever. It is ambitious and deserves all our endorsement.