Walkway plan wins vital backing

'Minority cannot be allowed block amenity'

Great Southern Trail supporters outside the Lartigue Museum in Listowel.
Great Southern Trail supporters outside the Lartigue Museum in Listowel.

Donal Nolan

SUPPORTERS of a contentious walking route over old railway lines from Kilmorna to Listowel have succeeded in winning the backing of Listowel Town Council for the venture in what they see as a major success in their campaign.

Over 1,700 people in Listowel have signed a petition supporting the development of a walking and cycling route over the disused railway line and up to 200 people took part in a walk from Listowel to Kilmorna on Sunday in support of the plan to establish the route.

The Great Southern Trail (GST) organisation, which is spearheading the plan, has already opened up a walking route over disused track from Rathkeale to Kilmorna on the Limerick/Kerry border. However, the extension of the route into Kerry is being blocked by a number of local landowners who have raised issues over the ownership of the old railway line.

The matter came before Listowel Town Council on Monday in a joint proposal by councillors Jimmy Moloney (FF) and Tim O'Leary (FG) calling on the authority to support the route for the tourist potential it would represent and to urge Kerry County Council to back it.

The county authority has come under criticism from the GST for failing to apply for funding for the route. The Kerryman understands, however, that county council heads cannot move on securing grant-aid while a legal question hangs over the whole area. CIE has clearly stated that it owns the old line and is supportive of the 'greenway' plans, but landowners in the North Kerry Abandoned Railway Line Action Group (NKARLAG) contest this.

They are considering a legal action against CIE on the grounds of adverse possession, The Kerryman understands. Chief among NKARLAG's members is Listowel Town Councillor Denis Stack (FG), who lives and farms in an area that would be affected by the plans.

However, speaking at the Listowel Town Council meeting on Monday night party colleague Cllr Tim O'Leary supported the route. "A minority cannot be allowed to prevent this amenity for Listowel and North Kerry. Everyone I have spoken to is 100 per cent for it. Yesterday we had 200 people turn out in inclement weather in support of this," he said.

Cllr Moloney pointed out that a similar trail on an old railway line in Mayo resulted in a spend of €7.2 million in the county in 2011 alone. "Why can't we do that here?" he asked.

He called on landowners to engage with a specially-appointed independent mediator in the matter.

Mayor Tom Barry said that he too was supportive of the route, but acknowledged: "I do recognise that landowners have what are, for them, very real concerns."

Cllr Denis Stack did not speak on the issue, but called for a vote to be held when it appeared the motions were to be adopted. He was informed that as no councillor had spoken against it and as no one seconded a counter-proposal he made, the motions were deemed adopted. The authority will now call on Kerry County Council to support the plans.

This is seen as a crucial step in the campaign by the GST as the county council is the main authority that would consider any plans.