Residents fight plan to abandon ancient art for modern fencing

Galway’s stone walls were made famous in the Saw Doctor’s 1990s hit N17 but they may be about to disappear from another major road in the south of the county.

A group of concerned citizens in South Galway is fighting to save the historic stone walls along the N67 between Ballindereen and Kinvara.

Galway County Council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) is planning to replace the stone walls with what locals describe as “cheap ugly post and wire fencing”.

The replacement is planned as part of the upgrade of the N67, which is the gateway to the Burren a UNESCO listed World Heritage site and cultural landscape.

The N67 is the first introduction holidaymakers have with the West region’s Wild Atlantic Way and stone walls add to the scenery and heritage.

A Facebook group, ‘Destruction to the Gateway of Burren Kinvara’ is opposing the removal of stone walls and has started an online ‘Save Our Stone Walls’ petition.

“The walls were built by hand by the ancestors of the local people, using local stone from the fields. If these walls are torn down, they are gone forever,” a spokesperson, Caroline Corless said.

The local community, especially the farmers, are very much in favour of retaining the culture of using dry-stone walls for boundaries, she said.

Ms Corless said what TII and the Council are planning to replace the walls with is a “big ugly fence”.

“What we want is to maintain the walls that have been here for hundreds of years. We’re a tourist destination. Tourists come here for the scenery. They want to see Dungaire Castle and the graveyard and the Famine hospital. This policy isn’t just for here, it’s happening all over the country on roads that are upgraded.

“All they (Council and TII) want is for everywhere to look like a motorway and get everyone from A to B as fast as possible but this is the gateway to the Burren and the Wild Atlantic Way and it is our heritage,” said Ms Corless.

The stretch of N67 taht is to be widened is about 3.2 kilometres from Toureen to Foys Hill on the Ballinderreen to Kinvara Road. The total amount of stone walls to be lost is 6.4 kilometres.

The cost of replacing stone walls is roughly €60 per square while the proposed alternative taht is being opposed is about €25, although it will need maintenance and has a limited lifespan and so “will cost more in the long-run,” said Ms Corless.

Some 24 County Councillors have signed the petition to save the walls and three local TDs in Galway East are also supportive of the campaign. The group picketed a meeting of the County Council recently, when a notice of motion was passed calling on the TII to meet with residents.