IF the sound of some middle class lad waxing lyrical about environmentally-friendly public amenities is enough to turn you off your Weetabix, then I suggest you turn the page now.
You see, this weekend I had the privilege of spending a couple of hours spinning along the Waterford Greenway on my road bike and let me tell you that it is a truly fantastic resource. Hats off to the people in Waterford, and those who had the vision to see it through, because I think it will stand to the local community for generations to come.
I started off near enough to Waterford city, in Kiloteran car park where the Suir river winds towards the city and took a spin in glorious sunshine towards Kilmeaden where the old train station has been converted to a lovely café and visitors’ centre. The beautifully laid cycle path unfurls through the countryside towards the town of Kilmacthomas, where it goes over a high viaduct and on in the direction of Dungarvan and the coast (and then two more viaducts!). But I did a reverse turn here after about 20km – I’ll do the second half of the route another time – before returning to Kilmeaden where I enjoyed an espresso in the sunshine eavesdropping on a number of locals.
They were all out on a Sunday morning, walking their dogs along the greenway and I met and observed people of all sorts along the route. I saw families with buggies, rugged-looking American pensioners on rented electric bikes and a local couple in their sixties who looked like they might have been enjoying a stroll after mass. And then there was me, the middle-aged West Cork man in lycra, having a good old nose around our neighbour’s infrastructure.
I have to say I was a bit jealous of what they’ve pulled off.
How wonderful would it be to have such a facility in West Cork? I read with interest the recent announcement that funding has been allocated for a feasibility study for a walking and cycling route from Cork to Schull. The prospect of it is mouth-watering.
Call me a cynic, but I get the heebie-jeebies when I read ‘feasibility’ and ‘study’. This is often the place where good ideas and money go to die. Apparently, transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has allocated €100,000 for the study and I sincerely hope this can be used to get the project moving rather than more wallowing in surveys and red tape.
There is no shortage of cash from higher up for this type of project given the government’s climate commitments – the question may be how we convince landowners to come on side.
Much of the old railway line isn’t in public ownership anymore, of course, and this is most likely the most significant barrier to getting this project progressed. The fact that the State gave up this land seems gigantically short-sighted in retrospect, not to mention the tragedy that was the closure of the accompanying rail lines. I suppose it’s easy to look back now with 20/20 vision. Money was extremely tight back then and all signs pointed towards the private motor car as being the mode of the future.
In Kerry, the Council took a stick rather than a carrot approach and resorted to CPOs to get their Ring of Kerry cycleway through. Might some similar long-term thinking and strong leadership be needed in West Cork?
From what I witnessed in Waterford, this will be an amazing resource for our local population, not to mention a huge draw for the kind of active tourism we need to promote in the region.
Do we have the leaders to step up and make it happen?
Taxing times for McGrath
AT the weekend, it emerged that Minister for Finance Michael McGrath will be bringing forward proposals to ringfence billions of euro in corporation tax over the coming years.
The fund is being envisioned to resource our ageing population in the future and will be run by the NTMA. Recent corporation tax forecasts predict windfall receipts that cannot be relied upon in future budgets, so McGrath and Paschal Donohoe are proposing to build a rainy day buffer.
Of course, this could be considered wise and prudent on the one hand, but with multiple crises ongoing, and with homelessness figures spiralling, the coalition may find it difficult to spin these plans in a positive direction.
This is always the challenge, of course, pitting day-to-day spending with long-term planning and fiscal responsibility, but there is another school of thought that would consider money a form of energy that needs to be directed where it’s needed when the time is right. As McCreevy once famously said – ‘When I have it, I spend it and when I don’t, I don’t.’
If only the world was so simple.
Seeing both sides now
EYEBROWS were raised last week with the news that Michelle O’Neill will be attending the coronation of King Charles. I’m sure you got the spoof Whatsapp images of her bedecked in royalist trinkets.
It’s hardly a comfortable occasion for a Republican to attend, not to mention a purported socialist! But these are the kinds of compromises they’ve been making in the North since the Good Friday Agreement was signed and is proof again (if any were needed) that Sinn Féin is more concerned these days with appealing to centrist, middle class voters rather than overthrowing capitalism and destroying the monarchy.
Still, I’ll be getting the popcorn out on the day to see how she gets on. A part of me can’t wait for the display of pomp and extravagance and how it might go down with the public.
Will it be a lavish, world-stopping event like his mother’s coronation in 1953 or more like Harry Potter in Brexit-land?