Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Cycling the Mayo Greenway and viewing Jackie Clarke Library

I was recently in Castlebar at the retirement function for Joe Beirne who retired as Mayo County Engineer. Joe is the last of the County Engineers who were appointed before Better Local Government (BLG) was brought to bear on the local authority system. BLG appears to have brought local government closer to the people with local delivery offices offering a 'one stop shop' and Directors of Services providing both technical and administrative services in specialist areas across an entire county. Engineers as professionals have also got their fair share of Directors posts and many have graduated to County Manager level.

There is also though now a widespread feeling among local authorities that the demise of the County Engineer was a mistake! A number of County Managers have said this to me over the intervening period some of whom admit were strong supporters of the new BLG system at the time. The principal issue is that the County Manager does not now have the very senior expertise and experience of a Chief Technical Officer to make strategic decisions of a technical nature and the quality of local government is the poorer for it I feel. The only two local authorities to have retained the City or County Engineer post are Dublin City Council and Cork County Council and certainly nobody I know in either of these local authorities would now countenance the removal of these posts.

Joe Beirne was a very talented engineer, team leader and a thorough gentleman. I wish him the very best in his well deserved retirement and was delighted to be in Castlebar to wish him well on behalf of Engineers Ireland.

When I was in Mayo I accepted an invitation from the West Region Past Chairman Muredach Tuffy to cycle the newly opened Great Western Greenway from Newport to Mulranny - some 18km. At the Newport end we also met the Secretary of the North West Region Rowan O'Callaghan who was also cycling the Greenway with his family.

Collecting bicycles at Newport for cycle to Mulranny with North West 
 Region Secretary Rowan O’Callaghan and Past Chairman West Region Muredach Tuffy

The Greenway runs from Achill to Westport has been designated as part of the European Centre of Excellence Network (EDEN). I had only heard of this European Designation in Carlingford Co Louth a few weeks back. The Greenway runs the line generally of the Great Western Railway from Mulranny to Westport so that the vistas of Crew Bay and Croagh Patrick from the old railway are now reopened to the cycling tourists.

Map of the Great Western Greenway

The Mayo Great Western Greenway already has an annual tourist footfall of 150,000 which is quite phenomenal before this summer season even commences. There are four bike stations at Achill Mulranny Newport and Westport where you can get all the gear. They will even retrieve your bicycle from any of the four Stations.

With Muredach Tuffy on one of the many new bridges 
on the Mayo Greenway with historic arch bridge in background

Mayo County Council wants to be the Walking and Cycling County of Ireland and I can see why. For many years successive County Development Plans have set out this vision and developed routes in Bangor Belmullet Westport and Delphi. The current County Manager Peter Hynes and his predecessor Des Mahon are very supportive of the potential to realise this valuable tourist resource for the benefit of the local economy. I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours spent on the Greenway and we were lucky with the weather too. I highly commend this sporting pastime to all with a keen interest in the wide open spaces.

The Greenway also leads onto a Smarter Transport initiative which is being planned around Westport which already is one of our leading tourist towns nationally.

PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland in Ballina 
with Jackie Clarke Museum Director Sinead McCoole 
and West Region Past Chairman Muredach Tuffy

When in Mayo, I also visited the Jackie Clarke Library and Museum with Museum Director Sinead McCoole in Ballina where an impressive collection of historic papers are being catalogued. It tells of the story of County Mayo through the local newspapers spanning some 400 years but mostly the 20th century covering the 1916 Rising and the foundation of the modern state.

Overlooking the River Moy in Ballina with new Salmon Weir in the background

When in Ballina I also viewed the new pedestrian bridge over the Moy River and the newly refurbished Salmon Weir on the Moy.

County Mayo has an amazing number of natural and modern amenities to engage the visiting tourist. It also has the stunning landscapes of the Nephin Mountains, Ballycroy National Park, Lough Conn and Lough Mask and the whole Cong/Ashford area where the epic film 'The Quiet Man' was made starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

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