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‘WRC will be Fr Michéal’s legacy’ - Ó Cuív

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CAMPAIGNER Western Rail Corridor campaigner Fr Micheál Mac Gréil speaking to the press at Claremorris Train Station in 2007 following the announcement that the Western Rail Corridor was going to be extended to Claremorris by 2010, Tuam for 2012 and Claremorris for 2014. However, only the line to Athenry has been opened to date but hopes are high the full corridor will reopen. Pic: Frank Dolan

Edwin McGreal

The reopening of the Western Rail Corridor all the way to Sligo would be a fitting legacy to the memory of Fr Micheál Mac Gréil.
That’s according to Fianna Fáil TD and former minister Éamon Ó Cuív, who was a great friend of the Westport priest, academic and campaigner who died peacefully at the Sacred Heart Hospital in Castlebar last week.
“He was a great campaigner. He never gave up. He was still campaigning in hospital. He had phenomenal energy and even though he was a big age, we’re going to miss him hugely,” Deputy Ó Cuív told The Mayo News.
When the Western Rail Corridor from Sligo to Limerick closed in the 1970s, Fr Mac Gréil immediately led a campaign to reopen it and kept up that fight for over 40 years.
The railway from Limerick to Ennis and subsequently to Athenry was reopened and the reopening of the line to Claremorris and beyond is currently part of political discussions.
The corridor was a cause that remained close to his heart right to the end, when he went into hospital before Christmas.
“He was planning right until the end. I visited him in hospital before Christmas and I spoke to him on the phone only ten days ago and both times he was still going strong and giving instructions!
“It is my belief that the Western Rail Corridor will be his legacy. I believe it will happen. One third of it is back. I believe the second third, from Athenry to Claremorris, will happen and soon and so that will only leave one third to go. That will be his legacy,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

‘Never a bystander’
The Corr na Móna based politician first got to know Micheál Mac Gréil in the 1960s during their shared involvement in Conradh na Gaeilge in Dublin and they became firm friends when Ó Cuív moved west.
“We had a lot of common interests. The Irish language, the Western Rail Corridor and advocating for Travellers. He was a passionate advocate for western development and we had a huge shared interest.
“I wrote the foreword for his book Pluralism and Diversity in 2011, at his request. His books are massive academic tomes and are still so relevant.
“If you did as much as he did academically, as well as he did it, it would be a very good life’s work. But on top of that he was an active priest, he campaigned for the west, he revived the shrine at Máméan, he passionately advocated for the Irish language. He was never a bystander, he contributed to every group and organisation he was involved in.
“He showed to everyone the power of getting involved and acting rather than talking. Don’t just give out, do something about it,” he said.
Westport TD Michael Ring knew Fr Mac Gréil well, particularly with Fr Mac Gréil spending his younger years in the house in Drumindoo that was once the home of Joe Ring, one of the leading Irish Volunteers in the west in the revolutionary years and a granduncle of Michael Ring.
“He was someone I had tremendous respect for and he always treated me with respect too. He had his point of view and if ye did not agree on something, that was fine. He would debate but ye would never fall out.
“He never forgot where he came from. In his latter years he could have retired but he continued to serve his church, his community and, with West on Track, his region.
“Not many like him will come again,” Deputy Ring told The Mayo News.
Fr Micheál’s remains will repose in the Cuslough Community Centre, Westport tomorrow (Wednesday) from 5pm with removal at 8pm to The Church of the Sacred Heart, Cushlough. Removal on Thursday morning at 9.30am to St Mary’s Church, Westport via his home in Loughloon. Fr Micheál will repose in St Mary’s Church from 11am until 12.30pm. Requiem Mass will take place at 1pm with the funeral proceeding to Aughavale Cemetery.