Part of the Address by Minister Martin Mansergh, TD, at the Galway East/Galway West Conference
Saturday April 24th 2010
I am very pleased to be here at the Galway East/Galway West Fianna Fáil Constituency Conference. Of all the gateways designated in the National Spatial Strategy, none fulfils its function better than Galway in the Western region, a neighbour of my county across the bridge at Portumna, even if not of my constituency. Last summer, I visited Victoria Lock in the company of the IFA, and had the satisfaction for once in my life of seeing the Northernmost tip of my county, a verdant grazing meadow beside the River Brosna, and of looking out on the island in the river Shannon that marks the meeting point of the three counties Offaly, Galway and Tipperary, and three provinces.
I will first talk about transport. I came here this morning and will be returning this afternoon by the Western Rail corridor, from Limerick Junction, two miles outside Tipperary town, and 15 minutes from home on the farm. Part of Fr. Michéal McGreal's vision was to link up West and North-West with the South-East. Personally, I am delighted to be able to travel by train from outside Tipperary town not just to Limerick and Ennis, but to Galway, where the station right in the city centre on Eyre Square is due for major redevelopment. A great deal of vision and determination by the promoters of the Western Rail Corridor was required over a period to overcome the natural resistance from the Department of Finance, not to mention some economists, who seem to think that public transport policy can be reduced to private buses, and who don't seem to think that passenger consumer choice is such a good idea, when the choice is between rail and road.
Events of the last couple of weeks have shown the vital importance of having alternative transport systems. We have been warned many times about the possibility of future energy shortages and high oil prices, but, independent of that, it is never going to be easy to access or exit quickly and conveniently city centres at peak times by private car. I know there is a determination to make the Western Rail Corridor a success, so that there is every incentive to move on the phase 2 connecting up to Tuam and Claremorris. There have also of course been great improvements in the quality and frequency of the Dublin-Galway rail service. We are also fortunate, again part of the Fianna Fáil vision, to have the West coast regional airports from Derry and Donegal to Sligo to Knock, to Galway, Shannon and Farranfore, providing added connectivity both to the capital and other airports abroad. The number of mainland regional airports is one of the differences between Ireland and Scotland, countries of roughly the same size and population. Communications are absolutely vital to us as an island country with no tunnel to either the continent or Great Britain.