The new Limerick to Foynes road will include a long-awaited bypass of Adare, but many people living along the chosen route are concerned about what it will mean for themselves and their livelihoods.
The preferred route, which was unveiled this week, travels from Foynes in a south-easterly direction towards Rathkeale, before turning for Croagh and Adare where it will link up with the M20 at Attyflin.
One of those living along the route is Stephen Daly, who runs Rosemount Shooting School, between Rathkeale and Askeaton. He said it took him years to build up the business to a position where they now cater for visitors from all over the world as well as sports people, gardai and many others who train there to get their firearms safety certificates.
“We are catering for five hotels in the city, three in Adare, one in Rathkeale, even as far as Doonbeg in Clare,” he said.
Mr Daly, who was in the South Court Hotel this Tuesday when the route went on public display, said the final location of the new road could mean they may have to relocate.
“There is no certainty at all and we are not getting any reassurance,” he said.
His father, Eddie, added: “It is serious for everyone here, because you can build a house anywhere, but where are you going to build something like this?”
Also attending the information session was Pat Culhane from Baunreagh, near Askeaton. He was concerned about the implications for himself and his family after discovering that their home – which they bought just two years ago – lay at the edge of the route corridor.
“We didn’t know when we bought the house that this was going ahead. We would have thought twice if we did,” said Mr Culhane.
“There will be a lot of traffic on that road coming from the port and it will be 24 hours a day,” he added.
Further south, near Croagh, Darragh Keating runs a busy dairy farm at Amogen Beg. He was “shocked” when he discovered that the selected route cut right through his family farm. “It’s unthinkable what they are talking about doing. It’s nearly cutting the farm in half,” he said.
Mr Keating pointed out that he had made significant investments in the farm in recent years, doubling his production capacity in preparation for the abolition of milk quotas. Now he is worried that this investment – and the very future of his farm – could be in jeopardy.
“It’s all our planning and everything that’s going up in the air. Do we stop with the plans we had? Do we stop doing what we’re doing?” he wondered.
“It is shocking really, from our point of view,” he added.
Local councillor, Fine Gael’s Stephen Keary who lives nearby, questioned whether there had been “enough thought put into the route selection”.
“It is a great concern to a large number of people and to the village of Croagh. It is the second time it has been bypassed. The community, they will be divided in two,” he said.
“It is very unfortunate for people that have set up homes and farmers that have developed their farms. In due course they need to be given due compensation.”
However, he acknowledged that the Adare bypass was to be welcomed: “Any route that would not have incorporated a bypass of Adare would have been a huge waste of money.”
The bypass was also welcomed by Independent councillor Emmett O’Brien, who pointed out that the traffic congestion there had become a national issue.
“We cannot lose sight, however, that people’s homes and livelihoods will be affected,” he added. The Kilcornan-based councillor noted that residents of Ballyellinan, Ballycullen and Cloonreask in particular had been taken by surprise by the inclusion of a new spur linking the new road to Askeaton which was not on the original route.
Adare pharmacist James Collins, said the proposed bypass would be “of great benefit” to the village as it would relieve the traffic congestion in the village. “From a business point of view, it is bound to be of benefit, but it will also improve the quality of life as well,” he said. However, he stressed that the business community in the village was cognizant of the impact the route would have on local property owners and said it was important that their concerns be taken into account.
The selection of the route was also welcomed by Patrick Keating, chief executive of Shannon Foynes Port Company. “Together with the reinstatement of the rail link from Limerick to Foynes, this project, which is already included in the Government’s capital programme, will significantly enhance accessibility for the port of Foynes and its attractiveness for investment,” he said.
Over the coming months the project team will work towards finalising the design of the road. According to Tim Fitzgerald, senior engineer with Limerick City and County Council, while the final layout has not yet been decided, it is likely to be between 60 and 100 metres in width and may take the form of either a dual- or single-carriageway along some or all of the route. The public can make comments on the preferred route corridor until Friday January 15.