*Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (FG). Photograph: Brian Arthur
AN INTERVENTION FROM THE Taoiseach into “an ongoing impasse” at a section of an identified route for the Lough Derg Greenway project has been sought.
Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Clare TD, Michael McNamara (IND) urged the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar (FG) to directly intervene on the claimed impasse at O’Briensbridge which has the potential to delay the greenway linking Limerick City and East Clare.
Stretching 43km, the Greenway is viewed as having massive tourism potential for East Clare. The Clare Echo understands that officials from Waterways Ireland will hold a meeting with ESB counterparts in early April in Ardnacrusha to try progress the scheme.
Ecological constraints along the River Shannon, Parteen Basin and Lough Derg have seen sections along the riverbanks and shorelines ruled out for inclusion in the Greenway.
Waterways Ireland, Clare County Council and Limerick City and County Council are currently engaged in the phase 2 option selection process. All reasonable feasible route corridors will be examined and their costs, benefits and effects on the environment will be interrogated to identify a preferred option, the Taoiseach outlined.
Discussions continue on the preferred route option but Deputy McNamara spoke of his concern at a potential “pinch-point” at O’Briensbridge. “Waterways Ireland has developed a greenway running from Dublin to Athlone. It will continue from Athlone to Galway, dipping south through Portumna, Woodford, Gort and Kinvara and across the Slieve Aughty mountains,” he said during Leader’s Questions.
Potential to walk or cycle along a greenway from Dublin to Kerry via east Clare was cited by Deputy McNamara as he referenced the existing greenway, along the old Limerick to Kerry railway line, the Kingdom of Kerry Greenways and those under development.
“There is a pinch point, however, at O’Briensbridge,” added Deputy McNamara. “It is ironic, really, because it is a village that was effectively bypassed by the Shannon scheme. It is a beautiful village but one that needs investment and tourists coming into it as it would have had historically. That pinch point is the ESB and Parteen Weir, which is a fantastic project that I saw as recently as this morning. It is something to which tourists would flock. The ESB has said that it cannot have a greenway with tourists going along its embankment. That may be the case. It may have legitimate concerns. If the civil engineering capability existed 100 years ago to harness the River Shannon, the civil engineering capability exists now to overcome this minor point”.
He stated, “The ESB wants it to go elsewhere and obtain land through a CPO. That is not the Waterways Ireland approach. It is the ESB approach”,
In response to Deputy McNamara’s invitation to visit O’Briensbridge, the Taoiseach said he would be happy to do so. The Taoiseach confirmed that the project is at phase 2 where technical advisers are examining options for a preferred route and undertaking extensive stakeholder engagement. “Proposals to allow the use of ESB lands for the greenway are currently being considered by the ESB and further meetings are envisaged”.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, Managing Director of Cealtra Communications, Eoin O’Hagan said he was pleased to hear the Taoiseach reaffirm his support for the project. “It’s all the more important as the ESB will mark 100 years of electrical generation in Ardnacrusha during 2029. By working with Waterways Ireland and Clare Co. Council and with the support of Government the ESB can benefit from the exposure and tourism boom that the Shannon Greenway will bring to them as they prepare to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme and the Generating Station that brought Ireland out of the darkness”.