Impasse At O’Briensbridge Stalls Landmark Tourism Project
Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara has urged Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to directly intervene in an ongoing impasse involving a section of the preferred route for the Greenway project linking Limerick City with Scariff in East Clare.
While the ESB will facilitate the use of lands in its ownership in Killaloe, a pinch point remains over a section of the preferred route at O’Briensbridge which Deputy McNamara fears could delay the project.
The proposed Greenway will cross the River Shannon over the Black Bridge and follow the old Errina canal to Clonlara and O’Briensbridge and across publicly owned lands to Killaloe and onwards to Scariff.
Deputy McNamara told the Taoiseach during Leader’s Questions today (Tuesday, 21 March 2023), “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 continued, “It will go through the parish of Scarriff at Loughatorick, some 11 km from the village of Scariff. There is an obvious potential to link them up, which would mean that one could walk or cycle along a greenway from Dublin to Kerry via east Clare, or from Galway Bay to Kerry via east Clare. That is hugely exciting.” he said, referring to 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.”
Deputy McNamara 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.”
“The ESB needs to work more collaboratively. I acknowledge the ESB’s goodwill towards this, but it needs to work harder on it,” added Deputy McNamara, asking the Taoiseach to make sure that Waterways Ireland and the ESB work constructively together to overcome this “to ensure there is not an obstacle to what is a hugely exciting project for east Clare and beyond,” he added.
In response to Deputy McNamara’s invitation visit O’Briensbridge, The Taoiseach said he would be happy to do so. “In the meantime, I will certainly speak to the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, about it and the ESB as well,” the Taoiseach commented.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed that the project is at phase 2 where technical advisers are examining options for a preferred route and undertaking extensive stakeholder engagement.
He told the Dáil, “Proposals to allow the use of ESB lands for the greenway are currently being considered by the ESB and further meetings are envisaged.”
“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.
Speaking afterwards, Deputy McNamara explained that as well as providing a huge recreational amenity to people who live near the Greenway, the proposed project has the potential to deliver a huge tourism boost to towns and villages in East Clare such as Scariff, Killaloe and O’Briensbridge, similar to that delivered by the Waterford and Westport Greenways for their local areas.
“It is difficult to over-estimate the positive impact this will have,” McNamara explained.
Deputy McNamara outlined the importance of a balanced regional approach to tourism developments in Clare.
He said, “Clare County Council is also developing the West Clare railway, which is progressing well. It is moving to design stage and the Kilkee to Kilrush leg will be the first one to be constructed and opened.”