A Government Minister has rubbished any suggestion that the Western Rail Corridor should be reopened to trains – claiming instead that the provision of a greenway from Athenry all the way to Enniskillen was the most logical option.
And Minister Ciaran Cannon says that “a small cohort” of individuals who are advocating rail traffic on the line were doing “a disservice” to a lot of people who could benefit from a greenway.
The Galway East TD has always been a staunch advocate of a greenway being provided along the rail corridor from Athenry to Tuam onto Claremorris and beyond.
Minister Cannon said that there will not be any trains running along the Western Rail Corridor “in our lifetime” and he also went on to dismiss the prospect of it being used for freight traffic.
He said that the biggest rail freight company in the country had recently scaled back their demand for a service between Ballina and Waterford Port to just one a week and now there was no service required.
Minister Cannon said that the development of the motorway network had resulted in rail freight now being in low demand.
He added that the opening of motorway between Tuam and Limerick reduced the requirement of rail. He said that this will be extented to Cork and possibly Sligo in the future.
Greenway campaigners are delighted with Minister Cannon’s strongest statement to date on the controversial issue. He said that the Ennis to Athenry section of passenger railway was losing €55,000 every week.
He said that there is now a fantastic opportunity available to create a greenway that would prove a huge economic benefit to North Galway, Mayo and Sligo on a State-owned track.
Fellow Galway East TD Sean Canney has been a firm opponent of a greenway along the Western Rail Corridor and he is supported in his stance by a number of councillors who have been successful in preventing a feasibility study being commissioned on a greenway.
Tuam’s Cllr Shaun Cunniffe welcomed Minister Cannon’s statement saying that it made absolutely no sense in reopening the railway in view of the roads network that have been provided.
“The prospect of trains running on the rail corridor was never going to happen and I am glad that the Minister has acknowledged this. It is time to dismiss the arguments for the reopening of the rail track and just move forward with a greenway.
“It can be done in a stage-by-stage process with the Athenry to Tuam section kicking the whole greenway off and even this would be a huge economic boost to both towns”, Cllr Cunniffe added.
Brendan Quinn of the Western Rail Trail in Sligo also expressed his gratitude that a senior Government politician is firmly behind their greenway proposals.
“Minister Cannon and his colleague in Galway East Anne Rabbitte of Fianna Fail are both on record stating their support for the Western Rail Trail from Athenry north to County Mayo
“Minister Cannon went on to say the only part of the country not benefiting from greenway investment was East Galway because a small cohort of people are blocking the greenway from happening because they still think the railway is going to come,” Mr Quinn added.
Paedophile sentenced to a further 17 months in prison
A convicted paedophile, described by a Garda as ‘a prolific child abuser’, has had a 17-month prison sentence added to a 13-year sentence he is already serving for the rape and sexual abuse of children.
Disgraced primary school teacher and summer school bus driver, 69-year-old Seosamh Ó Ceallaigh, a native of Tuirín, Béal a’ Daingin, Conamara, had at all times denied two charges of indecently assaulting a ten-year-old boy at a Gaeltacht summer school in Béal a’ Daingin in 1979.
The offence carries a maximum two-year sentence.
A jury found him guilty by majority verdict following a four-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last month.
At his sentence hearing last week, Detective Paul Duffy described Ó Ceallaigh as a prolific child abuser who had amassed 125 child abuse convictions, committed while he was a primary school teacher in Dublin and while he operated an Irish language summer school in Beal a’ Daingin.
They included convictions for rape and sexual assault for which he is currently serving sentences totalling 13 years.
Those sentences were due to expire in August 2024, but last week, Judge Rory McCabe imposed two, concurrent 17-month sentences on Ó Ceallaigh, before directing the sentences begin at the termination of the sentences he is currently serving.
The judge noted Ó Ceallaigh’s denial and lack of remorse and the lifelong detrimental effect the abuse had on the victim as aggravating factors.
Dismay as marine park proposal rejected by planners
A lifeline project, with the potential to create around 200 long-term jobs in an area of South Connemara ravaged by unemployment and emigration, has been rejected by planners – primarily environmental grounds.
The proposed marine park or Páirc na Mara, east of Cill Chiaráin village, was viewed by many as a real chance to turn the tide for this unemployment blackspot.
Locals – and the vast majority of Galway West politicians – were supportive of the project which was viewed as one that would revitalise the area.
That said, Galway County Council’s decision to refuse permission for the marine park was welcomed by Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages which had expressed fears that the marine farm would extract huge amounts of fresh water to breed more than 1.5 million salmon smolts.
They said that millions of litres of fresh water would have been extracted on a regular basis by the salmon farm company operating the smolt rearing units – from the same lakes as the Carna and Cill Chiaráin water supply system.
“Local residents can now rest assured that their domestic water supply won’t be hijacked to line the pockets of people who have no regard for the local environment or residents,” said Billy Smyth, Chairman of Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages.
It was proposed to provide a marine innovation park Pairc na Mara on a 60-acre brownfield site at Cill Chiarain.
The development involves the provision of a number of marine-based facilities as well as education and research facilities in the townlands of Cill Chiarain, Ardmore and Calvary.
It involves the abstraction of water from Lough Scannan, its transfer to and temporary storage in Iron Lake along with impoundment and pumping to the Marine Park site with a rising main.
According to the application, Galway County Council has previously granted planning permission for aquaculture-based activities on the site of the proposed marine park back in 2002 while the first phase of the innovation park was built in 2005.
There were a considerable number of submissions supporting the application with many saying that this part of Connemara would benefit greatly from such a development.
But there were others who expressed concern over the potential impact it would have on the environment, and it would be located in a highly sensitive area.
Cllr Gerry King said that it was a valuable opportunity lost to the area given the amount of unemployment that exists. He added that there was local outrage at the decision.
The Fianna Fail councillor met with those behind the project and residents in support of the project. He said that they all agreed that this decision should be appealed to the higher planning authority.
It was refused on the basis that it would adversely affect the integrity and conservation objectives of the European sides in the vicinity of environmental value.
Planners stated that they could not be certain that the project would not adversely affect the integrity of Cill Ciaran Bay, the islands and Connemara bog complex
They also said that the Environmental Impact Assessment Report did not present a sufficient level of information on the impact it would have on human health, biodiversity, land, soil, water along with cultural heritage and the landscape.
Council rules that honey business is in Special Area of Conservation
A North Connemara beekeeper has expressed his dismay at the County Council’s refusal to issue an exemption to allow him proceed with an apiary on farmlands at Rossadillisk.
Tom Termini, who has lived in the area for the past 25 years, purchased the lands just off the coastline with the intention of beekeeping there, but plans to expand have come to a halt after an enforcement order was issued by the Council last Summer.
Mr Termini said he had been of the understanding that the 20msq agricultural storage building which was portable in nature would not require planning permission because of its agricultural purpose and its location on appropriately zoned lands.
However, after receiving a letter from the Council, he engaged the services of an engineer who recommended seeking a Declaration of Exemption from planning.
“The area is located in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) so we engaged the services of another engineer who carried out an Environmental Impact Assessment and it was found it would have no impact,” said Mr Termini.
The report, compiled by Delichon Ecology, states that there are 17 sites protected by European SAC status within 15km of the proposed development, but concludes that ‘the completed groundworks and proposed agricultural building, either individually or in combination with other projects and plans, is not likely to have a significant impact on any European site’.
Mr Termini said no explanation as to why his application was refused was forthcoming, but that he had since applied for retention on the partially completed structure.
“After I invested in the property, I started down the route of setting up the apiary because I had one when I was in the States, and I’m a member of the local association. I decided to build a bigger shed so we could expand beyond being a service to have a product offering,” said Mr Termini who owns and operates Bluedog Honey.
He said the company would bring economic benefits to what was a small, rural area and the lands he owned were 90% bog, unsuited to many other forms of agriculture.
“We’d hoped to have it up and running by February 2020, but the pandemic set that back and then we got the letter from the Council as works were progressing towards opening this February.
“This facility would not impact on the area – other than using water to wash natural matter, there is no discharge – I’m perplexed by it all really,” said Mr Termini.
An application for retention of the structure was sent to Galway County Council this month, with a decision due by August 15.
Mr Termini said he would be forced to appeal to An Bord Pleanála if this application was turned down, but said he was being assisted by local Councillor Eileen Mannion, whom he said supported enterprise in the area.
“This has been going on for 18 months and really, what I want to do is get to the next stage where we can grow the business and deal with the stresses that come with that – not this,” said Mr Termini.