A meeting between EU officials and an Irish delegation led by Fianna Fáil TD Frank Fahey over the Galway City Outer Bypass has been labelled a “pointless junket” and a “waste of taxpayers’ money”.
These criticisms of the high level meeting were made by Fine Gael Galway West candidate councillor Brian Walsh. The €320 million bypass is currently the subject of a challenge before the Supreme Court.
The delegation led by Dep Fahey included representatives from Galway Chamber of Commerce, the American Chamber of Commerce, Irish Hotels Federation, and IBEC. They met with officials from the European Commission Environment Directorate General.
Cllr Walsh feels the meeting was less to do with progressing the bypass and more about creating an illusion of progress in the run up to a general election.
“This was a cynical charade to inflate expectations of a successful outcome to the outer bypass saga for the electorate,” he said. “I am fully supportive of the bypass but a pointless junket such as this achieves nothing and serves only to create an illusion of progress to suit a particular political agenda.”
Cllr Walsh said the fate of the project is now a matter for the judiciary and that Dep Fahey’s efforts “would be better focused closer to home”.
The Fine Gael councillor said instead of Brussels, the real work needs to be done with Transport Minister Noel Dempsey “because it is in relation to funding that the greatest obstacle will arise”. He also called on Dep Fahey to “use his influence” on Environment Minister John Gormley to get the National Parks & Wildlife Service to withdraw its objection to the development.
“More than €20 million has already been spent on the Outer Bypass project and it hasn’t even been progressed to the design stage yet,” said Cllr Walsh. “Costly junkets to Brussels squander more money at the expense of the taxpayer.”
However Dep Fahey said the meeting was “positive and constructive”. He added that while the Commission spokespeople were “anxious not to interfere with the ongoing legal case” being considered by the Supreme Court and the European Court of Justice, they were “willing to hold informal discussions with the Irish authorities on preparing a Plan B for the project”.
Dep Fahey also said that he has asked the Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey to meet the delegation that travelled to Brussels to discuss the options for proceedings with pre-planning work in a way that will not conflict with the legal matters.
“This crucial piece of infrastructure has been delayed for too long,” he said. “That is why I am doing everything in my power to ensure we can overcome the obstacles currently holding up the project.”
However there was further criticism for Dep Fahey over the bypass. Independent councillor and Galway West candidate Catherine Connolly, on her blog (catherineconnolly.blogspot.com ) was unimpressed that Dep Fahey made the delivery of the bypass his main priority for the election.
“His one priority is the provision of an outer bypass,” she wrote, “that announcement on a day where the local news has just informed that there are 120 patients on trolleys in the Regional Hospital!”