The controversial N6 Galway City Transport Project ring road routes must not divide Galwegians into warring bands “advocating the concerns of one area of the city over another”, but instead lead to unified opposition with a “total Galway perspective” a new protest group has announced.
The Galway N6 Action Group is holding a public meeting this evening at 7pm in the Westwood House Hotel in Dangan - which up to 500 people are expected to attend - to “formulate strong objections to all of the proposed routes” and demand the Galway City Council take “a serious look” at alternatives such as light rail or a tunnel under the River Corrib.
The meeting is the first major organised show of public opposition to the six proposed routes, which have incensed and bewildered Galwegians since their unveiling earlier this month, and which could see up to 130 homes demolished.
The group is also concerned the process “is being forced through with unnecessary haste”. Affected homeowners were presented with the route options three weeks ago. The closing date for people to lodge their views is February 27, along with an April deadline, called “ridiculously tight and arbitrary” by the group, for a final decision on a preferred route.
The new routes were drawn up by consultant ARUP, following a ruling by the European Court of Justice in 2013 that the original Galway City Outer Bypass could not go ahead as it impinged on bog cotton in Connemara and a section of protected limestone pavement.
“Surely the destruction of people’s homes, splitting local communities in half, and the massive disruption of their lives is of far more concern than a very small area of limestone,” said Colman Collins of the GN6AG. “The protection of limestone ledges, bog cotton, and butterflies is important – but the human habitat must come first.”
In a new development, Fine Gael Galway West TD Brian Walsh said that, like the original bypass plan, the new routes also encroach on ecological sites of international importance; and “would almost certainly result in further challenges before the courts”.
Road controversy raised in Dáil
While public anger is mounting, political opposition is also gathering pace, with Fine Gael Galway West TD Brian Walsh raising the matter in Dáil Éireann last night. He described the new route options as “madness”, “completely unfeasible”, and a “path of destruction” that would devastate homes, businesses, and amenities.
“These are not feasible alternatives to the original plan because of the chaos they threaten to cause and the cost associated with the proposals,” Dep Walsh told the Dáil, before calling for the new routes to be “abandoned” and for “new options” outside the city area to be explored instead.
“The plans for this project are supposed to enhance the economic growth of the city – not cripple it,” he said. “We need to immediately review the current process in a way that puts people first.”
Fears for future of Galway Races
Both the GN6AG and Dep Walsh have also expressed fears that the ring road jeopardises the future existence of the Galway Races, given that four of the six proposed routes go through Ballybrit. Should one of these routes be chosen, it would see the races - a flagship event for the city and a major earner for the local economy, stopped for at least two years.
“This would cost the city €60 million a year in lost earnings,” said Mr Collins, “and adversely impact the racing industry in Ireland which depends heavily on the proceeds of the festival meeting in July.”
Dep Walsh said a two-year absence for the Galway Races would have long term, not just immediate, consequences for both the event and the city itself.
“It would result in a break in tradition, after which it would be extremely difficult to re-establish the festival as the institution that it is,” he said. “We would lose annual race-goers that we may never get back. The race festival is a jewel in the crown of Galway. Digging up the racecourse in Galway would be like draining the canals in Venice, closing the Opera House in Sydney, or boarding up the Colosseum in Rome.”