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Achill greenway bridge finally in place


BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER The new bridge for the Achill greenway at Springvale, outside Achill Sound.

Edwin McGreal

The infamous greenway bridge in Achill which was at the centre of the Great Greenway Scandal has finally been installed.
Nearly three years after Mayo County Council declared the bridge was in situ in a false funding claim, work is concluding on a bridge to link the greenway at Achill Sound with the greenway at Sáile.
The bridge itself has been installed and work at the site is ongoing.
The bridge was the first red flag in the Great Greenway Scandal which led to lengthy investigations by the Department of Rural and Community Development of Mayo County Council greenway projects funded by the Department.
A ‘random’ Department audit on the Achill bridge commenced in March 2020 after the council drew down €200,000 in Department funding in October 2019, signing documents stating the bridge was complete. Work on it had not even commenced with construction on it only getting underway in recent weeks.
It turned out that while the council had drawn down €200,000, the tender they got for constructing the bridge was over three times that, €750,000.
When the Department discovered the council had lied about the bridge being completed in Achill, they widened their investigation. They unearthed over €2 million of false funding claims throughout the county.
In all the council had to hand back over €1 million while they were given strict deadlines and conditions for the completion of other projects.
They were also frozen out from all Department funding schemes from December 2021 to July of this year.
Since July, the Department are carrying out pre-payment inspections on all claims submitted by Mayo County Council until March 2023, when matters will be reviewed.
The programmes impacted by the funding freeze and subsequent pre-payment inspections include the CLÁR Programme, the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and the Outdoor Recreation and Infrastructure Scheme.
The bridge will link the Achill Sound Greenway with the Sáile section. The Sound greenway is an extension of the Great Western Greenway from Westport to Achill while work on concluding the Sáile section to Cashel is ongoing. There are plans to continue that link to Keel with also plans to run a greenway south from Achill Sound to Cloughmore on Achill Island.
Currently anyone looking to cycle on the greenway from Achill Sound to Sáile has to cycle along the main road at Springvale.
The new bridge is situated some 50 metres west of where the original bridge was planned. It is also located at a narrower stretch of water, over a stream, rather than across a sea inlet closer to Achill Sound where the original bridge was to be located.