Great Southern Trail group put pressure on minister

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Liam O'Mahony on the Great Southern Trail
IRELAND’S first and original greenway, the Great Southern Trail, is being ignored by the Minister responsible and by his staff, the chairman of the trail group, Liam O’Mahony has claimed.

IRELAND’S first and original greenway, the Great Southern Trail, is being ignored by the Minister responsible and by his staff, the chairman of the trail group, Liam O’Mahony has claimed.

“If Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Paschal Donohue is so pro-active about greenways and about visiting all the greenways in the country, as he claimed in a press release some months ago, why hasn’t he visited us?” Mr O’Mahony demanded this week.

The Great Southern Trail Ltd, which has spearheaded and maintains the 40km of trail along the old railway line from Rathkeale to the Kerry border, has been trying to meet Minister Donohue since last January. In the run-up to the Minister’s sod-turning visit to Barna and to the agm of West Limerick Tourism on Februray 16, the GST again contacted the Minister’s office but no meeting ensued.

And then last month, the group asked to be included in a proposed two-visit by the Minister to Kerry.

Yet, Mr O’Mahony said, despite a number of emails asking about an appointment, they were given none. In fact, he added, having been promised that somebody would be in touch, all communication stopped.

“This is a kick in the teeth for us,” Mr O’Mahony said. “He seems to have no interest in meeting us which is quite strange considering we have been working on this for 25 years.”

But this was rejected by a spokesman for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport who said the department “is open to meeting with the group at official level at a time that suits them and at their request.”

The spokesman added that a meeting was not possible in February “due to diary constraints” but claimed that an introduction to the Minister had taken place at the agm.

The spokesman continued: “The Department is unaware of any emails from the group that were not responded to during all this. On Minister Donohoe’s visit to Kerry, Cork and Clare earlier in March, the Kerry itinerary was organised by Minister of State Jimmy Deenihan.”

But Mr O’Mahony is also unhappy at the lack of progress made in completing the Kerry section of the trail and wants Minister Donohue to intervene to get the project moving. The Kerry section had been “put on the long finger” he said, and this was in sharp contrast with the actions of Waterford City and County Council which is planning to have a 30-mile Deise Greenway up and running in the next 15 months. The spokesman cited several technical reasons why the Kerry council’s plans were not approved.