From Castlebar - County Mayo -

Local Papers Commentary
From the Western People - 23 March 2005
By The Jaundiced Eye
26, Mar 2005 - 14:13

Deputy Flynn tackles lack of investment in West

Shortly after 5pm this evening, Tuesday, Mayo Deputy Beverly Flynn will tackle the issue of lack of investment in the West under the National Development Plan. Deputy Flynn said that the Government has declared an underspend in the BMW Region and after securing a two and a half hour Dáil debate on the issue she is eager to rectify the problem. Deputy Flynn told the Western People that she would not only address the problems but provide solutions for the Government to rectify the lack of investment in the West.

Deputy Flynn ‘tackles’ lack of investment? What sort of a headline is that? Deputy Flynn was going to ‘talk’ about lack of investment. Talk ain’t tackling in my dictionary. Why did Deputy Flynn not ‘tackle’ it when she was actually a member of the main government party and this massive underspend was occurring? Frankly, now she is ‘talking’ as an outsider about the western rail corridor, the N5, N26, Broadband, Knock Airport, decentralisation, etc., and it’s only so much independent hot air at this stage. They won’t put the money into it because the West really doesn’t matter – it’s as clear as day that BMW funding is a crock-o-$hit – just a nice myth. What’s the 100,000 people in Mayo when they have more voters than that in every big housing estate in Dublin? And likewise all along the main roads between the River Shannon and Dublin there are towns and former villages now with hundreds of thousands of frustrated commuters driving up and down to and from work in Dublin every day who have a much bigger voting base. They come first. They want local jobs and childcare facilities too. Government parties just sneer at independent deputies unless they hold the balance of power. I reckon the fact that an independent deputy mentions something as a positive will automatically put it on the government's ‘not-to-do-list’. If Deputy Flynn is to 'tackle' under-investment she might as well start by putting her hand in her own pockets.

Government urged to move on plan for new city in Mayo
A plan for a new city near Knock Airport is still being pressed on the Government who have been urged this week to set up an advisory body to discuss the idea. The people behind the plan say a new city is imperative to "rebalance Ireland", to provide for a population of 6 to 8 million in the country by the year 2005. According to William A Thomas who first submitted the proposal to Government in 2000, the idea is still very active and studies are still ongoing as well as contact with investors and the international business community. He disclosed that some 1,478 companies have expressed an interest in investing and moving to a new city. At present demographic studies are being carried out by Mr Patrick Gleeson and these studies will show that the population of the Republic will rise to 6 million by the year 2020 and 8 million by the year 2050. Mr Thomas said the New City group are adamant a new city is imperative to rebalance Ireland and to give the west a chance at survival.


As a kid I used to love Utopian fantasies. The report in the Western goes on to mention that "The new city will be on a plateau at 1,200 feet above sea level near Knock Airport which will give it vital international access and national access from the N4 and N5 and N 17". The city's proposed altitude of 1200 feet (which is 1000 feet higher than Knock airport's current runway) will protect it from flooding due to global warming too and provide a replacement when Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick have been submerged below the waves. Knock airport, however, is only 210 feet above sea level so maybe we really are talking a ‘City in the Clouds’? The characteristics of "Beauty", "Energy Efficiency" and "Excellent Quality of Life" are proposed as the key themes of this new city - but then they spoil it by stating that all its sewage will be dried and spread on bogs! Tell that to the people of Geesala or Bangor! But then they did build Milton Keynes from scratch in England during the 1970s so it’s not completely outlandish to have such a vision. And vision they have - the Renaissance is mentioned as in 'This city will foment a new Renaissance in Ireland'. I notice too that Jerry Cowley is buying into Disneyesque plans also. He is calling for a ‘Second Terminal’ at Knock Airport - Micky O'leary-like. I must admit betimes there it does get quite crowded in the ‘first’ terminal at Knock, but why not just expand it before going for the ‘second terminal’? You just never know though. A big city in the clouds near Knock Airport? Ah yes - it’s cloud illusions I recall - as Joni Mitchel once said.

Westport rail service set to benefit from cash injection
Iarnrod Eireann have unveiled plans for new 262 million euro rail cars which include the Westport to Dublin route. This means services to and from the West of Ireland will increase to five times per day. It is hoped the new rail cars, which will be the most modern of their kind will be up and running in 2007. Speaking at a meeting of Westport Town Council last week, Mr Myles McHugh, Manager for the West Region and Ms Ann Elliot, Westport Station Manager, gave a presentation to the members on the new proposals. Mr McHugh said Iarnrod Eireann have recently been competing against huge investment in roads, increased competition from bus and new air routes as well as increased car ownership, commercial mandate and higher customer expectations. Since 2000, and increase customer usage of the Westport line went from 349,000 to 473,000. The Westport route serves four percent of the entire journeys of Inter City nationwide. There have been no injection of additional carriages in the last few years.

Almost half a million passenger journeys? Not bad at all but then Knock Airport will have 500,000 passengers flying out of it this year. The route only accounts for 4% of the national total rail passengers. I’m not sure whether that says something about the success of Knock or the failure of the trains? But then a mere 4% of total rail journeys in Ireland is not all that surprising for the service and timing or journeys that we have had on the western line over the past 10 years - quite apart from the population base. I would like to know how many Castlebar to Dublin journeys are undertaken each year by road?

I hope that by new rail cars they also mean new engines as the current batch on the line are certainly nothing like those on the posters Irish Rail were showing in our supermarkets recently.

There was also talk about a 5:45 am train to get you to Dublin by 9am but nothing about a later train than 6:35pm returning from Dublin. I don't know how many times I've had to leave crucial meetings early in Dublin in order to make it to Heuston. You have to leave any southside venue by 4 pm and even then you may be too late depending on the location of your meeting. The frustration of missing that 6 pm train knowing that there’s nothing later is pretty dire. The capital is a nightmare traffic-wise at that time of the day so it would be good to have a slightly later train – 6:35 pm may just do it but 7pm would be better. They are going to try out a test with an early bird 05:45 am train. But I would hope, however, that people wouldn’t simply want a 5:45 am train to commute up and down every day to work in Dublin and live in Westport or Castlebar. That would be a true nightmare.

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