Fáilte Ireland is to provide €1.8 million for the development of 19 orientation and discovery points in Connemara as part of the Wild Atlantic Way. However, although many councillors welcomed the investment, others accused the tourism group of neglecting other areas of the county.
At a county council meeting on Monday director of services for roads, transportation, marine, and general services, Liam Gavin, explained that the Connemara infrastructure project is linked to the Wild Atlantic Way and that the 19 points which will allow people to pull in, stop, and read about the area, will involve high quality finishes and be completed by June 2016. “This is very good news for Connemara,” said Mr Gavin, who added that the locations are yet to be identified .
However, the news did nothing to quell the feeling of east Galway representatives that the area they represent has been forgotten by tourist agencies. “Fáilte Ireland has neglected us. There is one buzz word at the moment and that is Wild Atlantic Way. Fáilte Ireland has failed to promote the rest of the county, outside the city and Connemara,” said Cllr Jimmy McClearn (FG ). The Killimor councillor added that Fáilte Ireland has been getting away with doing nothing for east Galway for years and that the Ballinasloe area has some of the finest waterways in Ireland.
Echoing this sentiment, Kilconnell based Cllr Tim Broderick (Ind ) noted the proposed route for the Wild Atlantic Way, linking Athlone to Galway, leaves out the east and north of the county. “It would be foolish of the council to let this opportunity pass and not include sites of interest north of the M6,” said Cllr Broderick.
“We have two counties - west and north, and then south and east,” said Cllr Joe Byrne (FG ) who added that it is essential to receive a grant for the Burren lowlands in order to create opportunities in south Galway. A motion put forward by the Kinvara based councillor calling for the council to make representations to Fáilte Ireland for funding for south and east Galway was later agreed. Cllr Anne Rabbitte (FF ) called for the council to sit down with Fáilte Ireland and the National Roads Authority to come up with a plan to encourage visitors to Athenry, Portumna, and the Burren lowlands.
In reply Mr Gavin explained that there are plans contained in the Galway Walking and Cycling Strategy to create links to north, south, east, west of the county. “The ultimate potential is to create loops that link in with national cycling routes. There are existing routes that we would gladly link up to,” said Mr Gavin, who added that the council will continue to work with Fáilte Ireland to secure potential sources of funding for other areas.
Fáilte Ireland’s head of project for the Wild Atlantic Way, Fiona Monaghan told the Galway Advertiser that it had not forgotten about other areas of County Galway adding that it has always been the intention to create loops and spurs and encourage visitors to explore beyond the route. “It’s a long-term project which requires significant investment. The first part has been to provide route signage and the second will be to provide 159 discovery points. Once visitors are here in the west they are provided with information about other areas of interest, we don’t want them to stick slavishly to the route. East Galway is adjacent to the Wild Atlantic Way and has a lot of built heritage such as Coole Park. We’re now finishing a master plan for 2014 to 2020 and our long-term objective has always been to provide loops and spurs to give visitors other opportunities,” said Ms Monaghan who estimated that these loops could be in place by 2016.