A development which could lead to the creation of as many as 1,000 jobs is far too important to be used as a ‘political football’ between rival Fine Gael interests in Galway and Limerick.
This is the view of Fianna Fáil Galway City Central councillor Ollie Crowe who has accused FG of “parochialism” and a “lack of transparency and leadership” in how it has conducted itself over objections to the €200 million redevelopment of Galway Harbour by the Shannon Foynes Port Authority.
The SFPA, which lodged an objection to An Bord Pleanála through a planning consultant in March, claims the Galway Harbour redevelopment would compromise its own ability to expand.
The objection has now become a running sore between Galway and Limerick politicians, as well as within FG, as evidenced by Limerick Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan’s attack on the proposed port redevelopment at a recent meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport.
He in turn was criticised by FG Galway West TD Brian Walsh, who also described SFPA’s objection as “unnecessary and disingenuous”, alleging that it is solely to prevent the Galway Harbour Company becoming a competitor for the Limerick port.
“This should not be an issue because Galway does not want to compete with Shannon Foynes for freight traffic,” he said. “The business model involved in our plans for redevelopment envisages Galway as a specialist port relying on tourism, leisure, and exploration.”
Dep Walsh pointed out that the Shannon port plans are “not expected to be undertaken and completed until 2041”, and given this redevelopment is “unlikely to materialise in our lifetime”, it was “ludicrous” of SFPA to “try to hold back imminent and realistic plans” for Galway. He also side the time scale “smacks of a lack of ambition”.
Cllr Crowe has also used the term “ludicrous” to describe SFPA’s objection. “One State sponsored body should not be seeking to hinder the development of another,” he said. “Their objections are solely based on a fear of competition.”
However he was highly critical of FG TDs for having allowed this situation to develop into a public spat. “The whole thing is a charade,” he said, “a Galway deputy playing the popular tune in Galway whilst his party colleague in Limerick acts on behalf of the port there.”
Cllr Crowe regards the port development as vital to the future of Galway city’s economy, arguing that 200 jobs will be created during construction, while “increased employment numbers post-development will be in the order of 700 to 800”.
He added that, with Dep O’Donovan seeking a meeting with the Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe on the matter, Government TDs in Galway West “must do likewise immediately and stress the importance of this piece of infrastructure” for the city.