Supporting Local News

Signs help you to stray well off the beaten path

New wayfinding signage has been installed at over 20 locations across Galway City to encourage visitors to stray off the beaten track.

And while a local historian has blasted one of the new signs as “an abomination of history”, Galway City Council has insisted they are historically accurate and will encourage tourists to explore less congested parts of the city – and to stay for longer.

Galway City Tourism Officer Ruairí Lehmann said the wayfinding signage was a new initiative funded by Fáilte Ireland to enhance the visitor experience in the city.

Funded as part of Destination Towns, it includes three walking trails spanning 6.9 kilometres.

The River Trail, Canal Trail, and Coastal Trail all lead to and from Spanish Arch and contain more than 20 signs with information about history, flora and fauna and myths and legends of the waterways.

The contractor working on the project was Future Analytics, who have done several wayfinding projects across the country.

“We have an issue with visitors coming into the city, arriving in Eyre Square, walking down to Spanish Arch, and walking back the same route to Eyre Square, and then saying ‘we’ve seen Galway’.

“We are trying to spread people out, to get them to stay longer, to draw them up towards the University and to Woodquay, the Westend and areas that are less explored. These trails are part of that process,” said Mr Lehmann.

He said visitor ‘satisfaction levels’ were being affected by ‘bottlenecks’ created on Quay Street and Shop Street, and they were trying to encourage visitors to spread out.

Historian Damien Quinn said the initiative was ‘not a bad idea in fairness’ but he criticised a sign at Eglinton Canal, which was an ‘abomination of history’.

“The subject matter of the text, without shame, endorses the imperial mindset of the time and fails to even mention that the Eglinton Canal like so many other largescale building projects were built on the backs of the starving Irish working class 1801-1852,” he said.

Mr Quinn said it was “incredible” the sign contained no mention of the Famine, and it was “far from fair and balanced”.

“The image of The Earl of Eglinton, the then-Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, once described by Karl Marx in an article in the New York Tribune dated 1858 as ‘The Don Quixote’ of Lord Derby’s Tory Government, adds further insult to injury.

“Surely, it should be an image of the men who built it? I hope the rest of these information panels will be historically accurate and reflect the true history of their time,” Mr Quinn added.

Mr Lehmann insisted the Eglinton Canal sign was accurate, and a sign at Celia Griffin Park in Claddagh contained information about the Great Famine.

“It says the canal was opened by Lord Eglinton; it doesn’t say it was constructed by Lord Eglinton. We are limited in the space that we have, and while we would love to do in-depth detailed analysis of the complex history and issues, we don’t have the space within the signage to do that.

“This is about giving visitors a glimpse of the history. As people go along the trail they get a bigger story. This is about guiding people along the waterways, and showing the great amenity that we have. The reaction so far has been positive,” Mr Lehmann said.

Pictured: Eglinton Canal…controversy over signage.

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