Dublin based Transport, Tourism, and Sport Minister Pascal Donoghue has been accused of not understanding the issues surrounding agriculture, farming, and rural life.
It comes after news emerged that part of the western section of the Dublin-Galway Greenway is to be developed using compulsory purchase order for the land required. This has been confirmed in a written response to Senator Fidelma Healy Eames by Minister Donohoe. The local senator says this plan is contrary to the wishes of hundreds of local Galway farmers. More than 200 farmers convened in Loughrea to discuss the issue last week.
The Dublin-Galway Greenway comprises plans for a 'coast-to-coast' cycle route and partial rail trail, funded by the Government, and it is hoped the 276km route will be completed by 2020. Planning approval for the proposed development is in place for the route between Maynooth and Athlone. The preferred corridor has been selected from Athlone to Galway. It is anticipated that this will pass through Shannonbridge, Loughrea, Craughwell, Clarinbridge and Oranmore and will run along the coast into Galway.
Senator Healy Eames put down a motion to Minister Donoghue to outline the procedure, including the appeals process, anticipated in acquiring the lands for the initiative. “In response to my motion to the Minister that lands for the Dublin- Galway Greenway be secured on a 'by agreement' basis only with landowners and farmers, I was very disappointed with the written reply which states Minister Donohoe thinks it is a prudent decision, in order to maximise the potential of these large scale greenways, to develop such infrastructure using CPO. His response has been met with anger and a sense of outrage by local farmers.’’
The Oranmore based senator says she has outlined the concerns of hundreds of Galway farmers and landowners about the greenway crossing their lands, the splitting of holdings, the potential liability and insurance issues, the blocking of access to water supplied to cattle/cows by rivers in areas like Creganna, Oranmore, Ballinamanagh, and Clarinbridge. She also pointed out the potential inconvenience for farmers who would have to move dairy cows a number of times a day and how they would manage if they were farming alone. She says that livelihoods of farmers could be at stake if this issue is pursued. “The greenway is desirable infrastructure but not critical infrastructure and for this reason priority must be given to the landowner and farmer. One can understand the use of CPOs for critical infrastructure such as the M6, and even that was difficult. The only way forward for the greenway is by agreement with the landowner. I cannot stand over a situation where the farmer is second to the tourist. This would be blatantly unfair and would display a major ignorance of agriculture, farming, and rural life, the complexity of which I'm not sure the Minister may fully appreciate.’’
The Independent senator says there are many public routes which could be used for the proposed greenway. “The State and the Minister can save themselves a lot of cost and aggravation by using public routes and coastlines where possible. The old N6 is an ideal route that could be developed for this purpose. Likewise in our area of Maree, Oranmore, Clarinbridge and Roscam, the beautiful coastline could be maximised for a cycle route and greenway. This will meet the goals of beauty, scenery, and avoid the need for CPO since the State should be able to negotiate with itself more easily. The bottom line is farmers' lands should only be used where there is agreement with the landowner. The State now needs to go back to the drawing board again.’’