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*Cllr Cillian Murphy, Cathaoirleach, West Clare Municipal District; Pat Dowling, Chief Executive, Clare County Council; Leonard Cleary, Director, West Clare Municipal District; Seán Lenihan, Senior Engineer, Clare County Council; Eoin O’Cathain, Roughan & O’Donovan Consulting Engineers; Carmel Kirby, Director of Physical Development, Clare County Council; and Cllr Joe Killeen, Leas Cathaoirleach, Clare County Council. Photograph: Eamon Ward.

2025 remains as the earliest target for the opening of the first section of the West Clare Greenway.

Stretching along the route of the old West Clare Railway from Ennis to Kilkee, a line of 85km, the Greenway is expected to extend to 120km when linkages to towns and villages are included.

In their efforts to provide “a world class Greenway,” the scheme has been broken down into four sections by senior officials in Clare County Council, Kilrush to Kilkee, Ennis to Ennistymon, Ennistymon to Miltown Malbay and Miltown Malbay to Moyasta.

Funding from the Carbon Tax Fund led to the appointment of Roughan O’Donovan in July to initiate the design and planning stage for section one (Kilrush to Kilkee). Feedback to the first round of public consultation was “mainly positive and is currently being used to inform the route selection following which, we will carry out a further Public Consultation in December/January which will include 4 or 5 possible route options and the emerging preferred route,” Seán Lenihan of the Council’s project management office advised.

This design is to be further developed and it is aimed to submit a planning application to An Bord Pleanála in mid 2022. “Assuming timely consents, no legal challenge and the availability of the necessary funding, the Detailed design, Land acquisition and Tender competition will follow immediately thereafter. All going well, it would be hoped that we could commence construction on site in late 2023 with the works expected to take 18 months for completion,” Lenihan outlined.

A tender competition is underway for the appointment of consultants for section two (Ennis to Ennistymon). Discussions are ongoing with the Department of Transport and Transport Infrastructure Ireland to try secure “necessary funding” to make this appointment, the closing date for receipt of tenders is this month.

Speaking at the November meeting of Clare County Council, Cllr Liam Grant (GP) referred to the success of the Limerick Greenway which has had “just shy of a quarter million visitors” as a positive example of what Clare can expect in the coming years. “The benefit of a Greenway would be immense,” Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) agreed.

Ennis’ capacity for accommodation meant it should get “a greater push” when it comes to encouraging tourists where to stay. Working from the West first “won’t increase bed nights,” he predicted. “The trail head for the Greenway was always going to be Ennis, economic issues during recession meant it fell off table,” he added while pointing out he had been advocating for a Greenway since 2009.

An agreement was reached “to start at both ends and meet in the middle, it was a strategic decision,” Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) responded. He noted that the dates set out were “positive, I hope they can be met”. He called on Council officials to engage with elected representative to “counteract” negative feedback from the public consultation.

Assurances were issued by Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) that the accommodation base “is solid in West Clare”. He added, “Kilkee has more overnight accommodation than Ennis”.

Connectivity and tourism alone form key pillars on the need for a Greenway in Clare, Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) believed. “Funding is key to everything, we have to make every effort to support the investment in our county”.

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