Since the six new proposed bypass routes were revealed, widespread fears have been expressed from all corners about the future of the Galway Races. The blue route allows for a tunnel to be built under the Ballybrit track, and manager John Maloney has expressed his belief that this development would lead to the racetrack closing for a period of two years.
At last Monday’s meeting a number of councillors spoke at length about the value of the Galway Races to the local economy. Fianna Fáil’s Gerry Finnerty said the one thing everybody associates with Galway is the races and the impact on the racecourse had to be a factor in the decision making process.
Councillor Jim Cuddy said losing the seven day July festival would seriously impact on Galway racecourse’s ability to attract race meetings and crowds in the future.
Ardrahan based Michael Fahy wanted assurances it was safeguarded. “I am appealing for it to be protected, not only does it have major economic value but it also has huge historical value.”
Connemara councillor Seosamh Ó Cualáin said the racecourse was of national importance, and Ireland was known as the home of the horse and nobody could be seen to be affecting that reputation.
Tuam representative Donagh Killilea referred to the Galway Races as Ireland’s version of Cheltenham. “We are not here to make a decision but I hope you would not go for a route which would affect the racecourse.”
Arup consultant Eileen McCarthy said the idea behind public consultation was to take everybody view’s on board. “There had been phenomenal imput by the local community on the importance of the racecourse to the people of Galway. Nobody wants to lose the races, not even for one season, that is not the objective at all, because you won’t get these people back. The impact on the racecourse will be considered as part of the whole process.’’