New €550m motorway project for Connacht
An Taisce has been slammed for adopting what has been described as a 'To Hell or to Connacht' attitude to people living in the West.
The row has flared over the construction of the new M18 motorway project linking Gort in south Galway with Tuam in the north of the county.
Work on the €550m Public/Private Partnership project is expected to get under way early next year.
Part of the so-called Atlantic Corridor on the west coast, it will take thousands of vehicles out of Clarinbridge, Claregalway and Tuam each day and provide up to 450 jobs in the construction phase.
It is expected the motorway will take up to three years to complete and should be open to traffic in 2018.
But an analysis of traffic numbers expected to use the route has led to claims that it would become a 'ghost motorway'.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) has said that the southern section of the route will carry 8,158 vehicles per day, while the northern section will carry 7,289 when it opens.
This would leave the Gort-Tuam route behind the State's worst-performing motorways - the M9 to Waterford and the M3 through Co Meath - both of which carry 20,000 vehicles per day.
An Taisce's policy director James Nix has claimed that the existing N18 between Oranmore and Claregalway is "more than adequate" to cater for traffic.
Mr Nix said he believed that taxpayers were being made to borrow up to €250m needlessly for the project.
Yesterday Mr Nix was sharply criticised for his comments by Galway Councillor Frank Kearney who insisted that little had changed in the attitude of some people who had benefited from the massive investment in infrastructure on the eastern seaboard.
"It is time that the west of Ireland received proper infrastructure and were treated on a level playing pitch as the rest of the country. It's time to put Cromwell's thinking behind us", Cllr Kearney added.
"I would like to know what planet does Mr Nix live on. While I appreciate the great work that has been carried out on the Oranmore to Claregalway road, how often did he have to sit on gridlock in Claregalway or Clarinbridge," said Cllr Kearney.
"To express the view that the M18 Motorway project is a waste of taxpayer's money is an insult to the people who for years have had to travel from Donegal to Kerry and suffer hours of tailbacks in many of the areas that are proposed to be bypassed under the new stretch of motorway.
"Claregalway has been the worst bottleneck in the country for years", he said.
While the projected traffic levels for the Gort to Tuam route might well be below those of the M9 to Waterford and the M3 through Co Meath, Cllr Kearney asked if this meant that the people in the west of Ireland should have less entitlements that those in the south-east of the country or in the Meath area.