Topical Issue Debate: The need for this Government to make available a dedicated stream of funding to progress construction of greenways, blueways and other outdoor trails

21st January, 2015

There has been significant funding of Greenways and outdoor trails under this Government to date. I fully recognise the contribution such projects make to the local economy attracting visitors from home and abroad.

Last year my Department awarded €6.3m. under the National Cycle Network Funding Programme 2014-2016 to three local authorities for the delivery of greenways following a competitive process.  A further 11 cycle/greenway proposals submitted by local authorities were selected to share in €200m Government Stimulus Package for infrastructural development, €10m of which was earmarked for the delivery of greenways.

Seed funding was also provided to a number of local authorities in 2013 to progress planning and research for greenways, this funding amounted to €420,000.


My Department has, at present, no plans to put in place a dedicated funding stream to provide funding to community groups to develop and deliver proposals such as those outlined by the Deputy as funding is fully allocated at present until 2016.   As it stands I feel that the LEADER programme serves this purpose although no doubt there are many demands being made on limited resources.


I would recommend that Local Authorities and Community Groups continue working within their own resources, where possible, to progress plans for suitable projects so that when funding does become available that they are in a position to apply for that funding. It should be noted that the funding under the Stimulus Package last year was made to projects that were already on file with my Department following on from the awards under the National Cycle Network Funding Programme.


Offering our visitors an innovative tourism product has been key to the growth in visitor numbers in recent years.  This Government’s commitment to sustainable transport and encouraging the development of world-class cycling and walking trails is an added incentive to visit Ireland. We must also remain aware of the need to build Greenways that have appeal to local users, particularly where these Greenways can help provide an alternative route to schools and work for children and families.


I understand that the National Trails Office in conjunction with Stakeholders is working on a revised Strategy for Irish Trails that will be submitted to Government for approval later this year. This Strategy, along with the Department of the Environment and Local Government’s National Countryside Recreational Strategy, (that is also currently under review) will guide the Government’s thinking on expanding the number of greenways, blueways and other outdoor trails in the coming years.


It is important that, in preparing business cases and plans for Greenways, communities and local authorities always keep in mind the end user. There is no point in seeking to put significant time, effort and money into projects that will not be used. The “Field of Dreams” approach where “if you build it they will come” is not going to work for Greenways. People need to have access to and from the start and finish points of these routes, by car, by public transport and by bicycle. Whilst using State Lands, be they former railway lines, canals or other disused lands, presents the cheapest and easiest option it might not always be the best option.

I am hopeful that funding will become available in the coming years for the construction and development of more greenways and those community groups and local authorities that are working hard now to develop strategies and prepare business cases will be best placed to avail of that funding. Many of us will have seen the superb facility that the Great Western Greenway has provided in County Mayo, one that is used by locals and tourists and has helped to provide jobs in our rural towns and villages, I hope to see many more facilities opening over the coming years.