There is “no reason” why Limerick city and part of the county along the estuary should not be added to the Wild Atlantic Way.
That is according to local TD Niall Collins who this week added his voice to a growing clamour of calls for Limerick to be included in the 2,500 km touring route.
“I think the fact that Limerick, as the capital of the Mid-West, is bypassed is an issue we need to start campaigning on,” said Mr Collins, who raised the matter in the Dail this week in a question to Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe.
Acknowledging that the Wild Atlantic Way was a “very positive initiative”, the Fianna Fail TD said there was no reason why it could not come up along the Shannon estuary and into Limerick city.
Currently the route only comes as far as Tarbert, before continuing across the estuary to Killimer in Co Clare. A ‘spur’ extending to Foynes from Tarbert is the only part of Co Limerick included.
“The Wild Atlantic Way is a success and there is no reason why Limerick cannot be part of it,” Mr Collins added.
City-based hotelier Sean Lally is also in favour of the route being modified to take in Limerick. He said he was “very disappointed” that the city was not being promoted as a ‘gateway’ to the route, as had originally been promised by Failte Ireland.
He pointed out that there is no reference to Limerick as a gateway in any of the brochures or website of the Wild Atlantic Way.
“I do think Limerick should be on it,” the manager of the Strand hotel said. “I think it should have given people the option of coming into Limerick. You pass by Bunratty Castle, which is a huge tourist attraction; you pass by King John’s Castle and a range of other popular attractions.
“It is a huge opportunity and it is huge for Limerick and we need to get on it,” he added.
“We should work together as a city to make sure Limerick is featured as being an important stopping off point on the Wild Atlantic Way.”
Another person who has been campaigning for Limerick to be added to the route is Patrick O’Neill, former chief executive of the Irish Centre for Business Excellence.
He disputes the notion that Limerick is not on the Atlantic, pointing to the existence of a unique maritime phenomenon - a bore wave - which travels up from the mouth of the estuary as far as Limerick city (see Letters to the Editor, page 18).
“The fact is that the route map stops at Foynes and doesn’t continue by road along the estuary to Limerick and Ennis. You are directed across in a ferry that takes about 60 or 70 cars. What is a coach going to do?” he asked.
Recently, a delegation from Clare met with the Minister for State at the department of tourism, Michael Ring, to discuss the possibility of having Limerick and Clare added to the route.
However, according to delegation member Paul Walsh, the response from Failte Ireland representatives at the meeting was not very positive.
“It is incredible that Bunratty isn’t on it, Shannon airport isn’t on it, even though the Atlantic actually laps the end of one of its runways,” said Mr Walsh, a Clare-based businessman.
He and others are now in the process of setting up a pressure group to progress the issue.
“There is a large area of the coast in Clare and Limerick not getting a share of the business from the Wild Atlantic Way. The loss to jobs and revenue is quite significant,” Mr Walsh added.