Thursday, 18 September 2014

THE WAY FORWARD!

Partnership approach praised as Way Walks Scheme is launched

Pauline Scott

The importance of creating a proper structure so that walking tourism can be properly exploited in Ireland was highlighted by Minister Éamon Ó Cuív as he performed the official opening of the Suck Valley Way Walks Scheme in Athleague on Friday afternoon last.

The Minister was joined at the opening by local landowners and representatives of IFA including County Chairman Bernard Donohue, Development Officer Adrian Leddy, as well as local politicians and members of the Suck Valley Development Co-operative.

Also present were members of Mid South Roscommon Rural Development Co. at what was the last function for the organisation before the creation of a new body, Roscommon Integrated Development Co. Ltd. on January 1st. Chairman of Mid South Roscommon Rural Development Co. Michael Spellman was first to address guests, outlining the changes which will be wrought on January 1st and paying tribute to staff, board members and all who contributed over the years to the success of the company. He also noted that there is €12.838 million to be spent in the county between now and the end of 2013 on rural development measures.

Rural Recreation Officer Martin Dunne paid tribute to over 80 landowners whose co-operation made the development of the scheme possible. 83 farmers will carry out work on their own section of the scheme and will be recompensed for that, while four have opted to have a Rural Social Scheme carry out the work on their land.

Martin Dunne carried out an audit of the landscape and the existing Suck Valley Way furniture and helped in the drawing up of a detailed plan showing the hours to be allocated to different tasks, such as maintenance of stiles and bridges, general inspection, while the materials will be provided by the Leader company. He also noted that local loop walks are to be developed and winter routes, which will avoid flooded areas. Walking holiday packages, taking in visitor attractions such as Clonalis House and Castlecoote House and the Railway Museum, are also planned. Concluding, he thanked staff of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, as well as Lydia Hall of the National Trails Office and the staff of that office, County Councils, Fáilte Ireland and Rural Social Scheme workers.

John Kelly, Chairman of the Suck Valley Co-Operative, praised the participants for allowing the walks through their lands. IFA County Chairman Bernard Donohue acknowledged the hard work of Minister Ó Cuív on the issue and said that the walk was a good example of bottom-up approach to development. He noted that the money being spent on upgrading the walk would stay in the local economy and help people to buy goods in their local towns. Guests were also addressed by Cormac McDonnell of the National Trails Office.

Noting that it was late on a Friday evening, the Minister abandoned his prepared speech in favour of a few quick words for those present. He said that much time is expended on problems, whereas what is needed is solutions. “You have €12.8 million of a solution available in January,” said the Minister, before wishing everyone in the new Integrated Company all the best in the new year. 

He acknowledged that a huge number of people are under huge financial pressure, but noted, “I have said that for everyone who paid too much, there is someone who got too much. I am curious where the people that got the money put it. I would appeal to people that have the money, there are still plenty of people with good jobs, now is the time to give a chance to people less fortunate.”

He noted that money is available for rural development and urged communities not to lie down because of the problems, but rather to work harder. “Everywhere I go and in every rural community, I have ever been in, I have always seen more ideas waiting to be done and now we have some money, time and effort available to implement it. We are in no way out of ideas.”

Concluding, he thanked all the partners in the Suck Valley Way Walks Scheme and urged all involved to work to make Ireland a mecca for tourists, saying, “tá go leor oibre le deanamh againn”.