Western Galway is recognised universally as an area of great beauty, but some of the policies of the National Parks and Wildlife Service are little more than “bureaucratic bullying”.
This is the view of Galway West TD Noel Grealish. He said many of his constituents live in areas that are “sparsely populated, where economic survival is difficult at the best of times, let alone in the current economic climate” and that the policies of the NPWS are “punitive and unfair” to them.
According to Dep Grealish, more than 40 per cent of Galway West is designated under one or other of the NPWS ecological designations. This compares to a national average of approximately 14 per cent.
“Because of the disparity between the levels of designation in Galway West as opposed to the rest of the country, many of my constituents are effectively being penalised for living where they do,” said Dep Grealish.
A total of 32 raised bogs are designated Special Areas of Conservation. Of these, 25 per cent are in County Galway alone.
“Because of this directive, many of my constituents are prevented from cutting turf in their own bogs,” he said. “Apart from the obvious financial hardship, this restriction is also attacking the very core of Irish rural life, where the annual harvesting of turf was as much a social occasion as a much needed source of fuel.”
Dep Grealish is also concerned by the NPWS proposal to widen the bridge in Oughterard. The bridge is currently 4.7 metres wide, with no footpath. The proposed widening including a footpath, would providing greater safety for school going children and pedestrians in general.
However, the NPWS objected to it, on the grounds that the “shadow from the bridge deck might cause an impact for the freshwater pearl mussels in the river”.
“In what civilised society,” asked Deputy Grealish, “is the impact on pearl mussels in a river, more important than the safety of school going children?”