Town marches to show outrage against An Taisce's plans to halt road development
IT WAS a town marching in unison to show its outrage at a decision by environmental watchdog, An Taisce, to seek a judicial review that has halted a planned road improvement.
About 1,000 locals that included business people, fishermen, farmers, people working in tourism, politicians and those who choose to live and raise their families in this remote and beautiful part of the world, led by the Dingle Fife and Drum Band, brought the town to a standstill.
They see it as "outside interference" from an organisation that has the power to delay what they see as necessary progress to improve safety and Dingle's connectivity to the outside world.
Lovers of Co Kerry will be familiar with the N86, the main route to the Dingle Peninsula - also one of the country's most dangerous roads.
Figures from An Garda Siochana reveal that since 2000, four people have lost their lives on this road, five have suffered serious injury and a further 33 have suffered minor injuries.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) says parts of the road have a collision rate that is more than twice the national average and the fatality rate for the section it proposes to improve is almost 50pc higher than the national average for rural single carriageway roads.
But An Taisce is concerned.
In a statement, chairman John Harnett said the impact of the development on the heritage of area was of concern to it. In January, it was granted leave by the High Court for a judicial review of An Bord Pleanala's decision in November to grant planning permission for the N86 Dingle to Annascaul and Gortbreagoge to Camp Improvement Scheme.
Funding of €4.3m had been set aside but the NRA says this can't be held indefinitely and will go elsewhere.
An Taisce says said its decision was based on An Bord Pleanala's "failure to fulfil obligations" under the EU's Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.
The case is due before the High Court in March.
Community activist Brigid O'Connor has been involved in the struggle since the 1990s, even taking the fight to the European Parliament in 2000.
"Unfortunately, An Taisce, an organisation up in Dublin is holding us to ransom," she said. "After three years of public consultation, it seems very unfair to come out at the 11th hour when the job is about to begin."
Former senator and Dingle-born Joe O'Toole said he resented being called "anti-environment".
"It is the people here who have protected the heritage and environment of the area.
"This is the part of the world that established a 'cead mile failte' but these people must also recognise our needs, our desires, our views and our love of our place and they must respect that," he said.