Public meeting seeks to allay fears over controversial Limerick-Kerry walking route

Gerard Fitzgibbon

Reporter:

Gerard Fitzgibbon

A map outlining the proposed 9km extension of the Great Southern Trail from the Limerick border to Listowel
Kerry county manager Tom Curran is to meet with representatives of the Great Southern Trail over plans to build a controversial €400,000 extension to the walking route into county Kerry.

Kerry county manager Tom Curran is to meet with representatives of the Great Southern Trail over plans to build a controversial €400,000 extension to the walking route into county Kerry.

Mr Curran’s decision to meet with trail delegates and Listowel town councillors comes after supporters of the project carried out a survey of 150 residents along the proposed 9km extension of the trail, which would run from the Limerick border at Kilmorna to Listowel.

Volunteers who carried out the survey claim that 80% of respondents are in favour of the project, while 10% are unsure and another 10% are opposed.

Gearoid Pierse, a spokesperson for supporters of the trail in North Kerry, said that the survey and the feedback from a public meeting in Listowel last Saturday have shown that there is an appetite to advance the project.

“We did a door-to-door survey along the 9km route. We found that 80% of people are in favour, and about 10% had concerns but came along to the meeting, where we showed them pictures of things like gates, fencing, and bridges on the Limerick side.”

Plans to extend the trail, which currently runs from Rathkeale to Abbeyfeale, over the border along the old Limerick-Tralee rail line have attracted controversy since an infamous stand-off between walkers and Kerry landowners in February.

After February’s initial protest by the North Kerry Abandoned Rail Line Action Group, a number of North Kerry landowners claimed title to sections of the old rail line, which has been disused since the late 1970s.

However CIE repeatedly affirmed their ownership of the land, which is worth up to €1 million, and it is understood that the action group have now set aside their claim.

At Saturday’s meeting, which was attended by Minister Jimmy Deenihan, local Labour TD Arthur Spring and Kerry South TD Brendan Griffin, a member of the Oireachtas transport committee, locals were presented with information on the route, design and safety measures for the trail extension.

Details of two proposed bridges, swing fences for walkers, boundary fences and other features of the trail along its 39km route in Limerick were also presented. “The key to resolving this is communication. That’s why we had to public meeting, that’s why we went door to door”, Mr Pierse said.

A number of Listowel town councillors, who voted to support the project in May, were also present. However Mr Pierse said that the absence of a number of local area county councillors is a concern for trail supporters.

Given the public nature of the proposed development, funding can only be sought from the Department of Transport and the EU once formal applications are made by Kerry County Council, after official design documents have been compiled.