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Muddying the waters in Murrisk

On the Edge

On the Edge
Áine Ryan

IN THE daily cartoon strip of Irish political life, it is quite a relief that we are no longer hearing about John Halligan and Shane Ross’s proposed peace mission to North Korea.
Referring to such fantastical forays, Fianna Fáil councillor Brendan Mulroy opined at a recent West Mayo Municipal District meeting that this country had ‘lost the plot’. His comments were made during a debate about the ongoing murky-water-in-Murrisk fiasco. Clearly, he couldn’t be accused of hyperbole.
Indeed, his council colleague, Christy Hyland also hit the nail on the head when he argued that there were some 100,000 people climbing Croagh Patrick each year while the colour of water coming out of the taps in the locality was ‘a disgrace’.
So, what happened to the €6.3 million allocated in January 2007 by the then Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche for Mayo County Council to prepare contract documents connecting Louisburgh to the Lough Mask Regional Water Supply Scheme?
Why in the name of God – or better still, St Patrick – are locals being asked to consider investing in setting up a group water scheme a decade later? Did this multi-million-euro project not include Murrisk and Lecanvey?
It is no wonder people from Murrisk and Lecanvey staged a protest outside Murrisk Community Centre as the meeting convened on Monday, November 6, last.

Clew Bay Trail
INSIDE the centre, Iarla Moran, Head of Water Services at Mayo County Council, explained that Irish Water’s ‘current community-development plan’ does not include extending the Lough Mask pipeline to Murrisk and on to Louisburgh.
Is it not farcical that at the same meeting another county council senior executive, Pádraig Philbin, announced that work on the greenway extension – to be known as the Clew Bay Trail – will ‘start in earnest’ in 2018?
Earlier this year, Minister for Rural Affairs Michael Ring allocated almost €1 million for the project, which will be developed in phases – Bertra to Murrisk, and then Old Head to Louisburgh.
It is genuinely great news that Co Mayo’s greenway network is being increased. The Great Western Greenway to Achill and Westport town’s greenway brings pleasure to people of all ages right throughout the year. The proposed extension is not only progressive from a touristic perspective but also from a safety one, ensuring that the many cyclists, both locals and visitors, can enjoy the panoramic scenery of the bay without the dangers posed by motor vehicle users. But is it not putting the cart before the horse?
While the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW), which encompasses the Clew Bay Trail, is now one of Irish tourism’s most successful brands, should our policymakers not be ensuring the proper infrastructure is in place first to cater for the extra tourists and their needs?

Key tourism destination
Croagh Patrick is a key destination along the WAW. Pilgrims and visitors from around the globe climb the holy mountain each year, as we well know. Why is the ratio of local businesses catering for these hordes so dramatically small in comparison to the numbers? Isn’t the potential enormous? The pretty village of Murrisk is not only home to Croagh Patrick’s official ascent route but also, poignantly, the National Famine Monument.
This wonderful natural and manmade heritage cannot be optimised without a reliable water supply. For any budding entrepreneur wishing to open a business in the area, the price of purchasing a filtration system is surely prohibitive.
But even leaving business interests aside, is it not basic common sense to instal a proper water supply before extending the greenway and thus attracting more visitors?     
I certainly wouldn’t want to be a council official heading out this winter to ask local landowners for their cooperation regarding the building of a greenway – not when the water coming out of their taps is reportedly often brown, and they’re being asked to consider forking out for a group water scheme ten years after the government allocated over €6 million for a water-supply project.
I wouldn’t be holding my breath.

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