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Tag Archives: Sligo

The damage done to Maebh’s tomb at Knocknarea, County Sligo, is an example of what can be wrought when lack of thought has a budget.* It is an example of what passes for development and opening up access. It is a result of the belief, widespread in Ireland, that it is acceptable to destroy an existing amenity in order to build another.


Let’s be clear about Knocknarea. No one argues against the preservation of a burial cairn that has been on top of a mountain for five thousand years. It must be emphasised too that getting up there for anyone interested has never been a problem. The problem begins when someone with public money to spend and a bizarre understanding of development decides to build an easy pathway for casual walkers. A thinking person could not possibly be surprised by the outcome. Firstly, preserving the new footpath in such exposed, elevated terrain means preventing it becoming a water course and so a deep drain has been gouged down the mountainside. Secondly, the increased traffic, the messers and the vandals have and will cause damage.

What’s to be done? Well, the person with the budget and the bizarre understanding of development will further the destruction by starting their response with information and appeal signs – probably lots of them. When that doesn’t work, the signs threatening consequences for walking on or removing rocks from the cairn will appear alongside the earlier signs. When that doesn’t work, fencing will appear, most likely along with an encircling footpath.

Having reached that stage, something new will have been created, something quite unlike the very reason that people wanted to go up there in the first place: atop Knocknarea there will be signs, fences, rules – and at the centre of the mess will be Maebh’s tomb which resisted millennia of weathering and visitors but was powerless against a budget under the control of a person bent on destruction.

Incidentally, the whole mess will be topped-off when the walkers are “protected” by a further set of signs, forbidding dogs, cyclists and horses.

The conscious destruction of the existing Knocknarea amenity and its replacement is by no means unique or even rare.

23Kms of the disused Middleton to Youghal railway is to be buried under a cycle road, described in Orwellian terms as a Greenway. The ridiculous point has been made that the cycle road/greenway is designed so that the railway could be excavated should it be needed in the future! No doubt the new cycle/walking route will be advertised as travelling a disused railway. People so attracted will be disappointed to find a mere road with little or no evidence of a railway. The thing is there’s no need for a road and no need to sacrifice the existing railway amenity. Other countries make old railway lines attractive and accessible by building a pathway to one side or a boardway right down the middle of the line. Here in Cork, as at Knocknarea, the amenity – that which makes the thing attractive – is to be unnecessarily destroyed.**

Sadly, the creation of these bogus Greenways is based on a very good idea. The problem is that its implementation is half-assed (i.e. is being done with too little effort or care). The good idea is a network of roads specifically for cyclists and pedestrians. The half-assed implementation begins with a look around for handy existing routes that could be paved, tarmacked or otherwise covered over, destroyed. There seems not to be the slightest clue among the developers that the existing routes are amenities. They are not unused, vacant corridors, handy for bits of cycle-roadbuilding. They range from old railway lines to river and canal banks that are used by those who love them.

A few things need to be said. No one at all wants to deny access to a canal towpath to a cyclist on a road bike, a wheelchair user or a parent with a baby buggy. No one is predicting a lot of traffic, so a relatively narrow, shared footpath would suffice. The very reason people walk, cycle and horse-ride towpaths and river banks is not merely to get away from motorised traffic but to get away from roads – and indeed signs/notices. If the developers destroy their amenity, most will go elsewhere.

Here’s the tolerant and decent proposition: a public amenity is not to be destroyed in the creation of another public amenity.

* https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/hikers-putting-5-000-year-old-co-sligo-cairn-at-risk-1.3756379

** One of the more bizarre reasons given for the wide cycle roadway is that it has to be that wide as that is the width of the construction equipment!

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I’m back a few days from a short holiday in Monte Estoril, Portugal. That’s a lovely little town between Estoril and Cascais. At the bottom of the hill there’s the railway station and the sea but between the two there’s something really interesting, something that would be regulated beyond use in Ireland. I’m talking about a wide promenade that stretches some miles from Cascais to Azarujinha Cove.

Yes we have promenades and walks in Ireland and we have parks aplenty but increasingly they are dominated by the rules of joyless NANNY! In Ireland a public walkway or park would typically be signed thus:

No horses

All dogs must be kept on leads

No football

No cycling

No skateboards

No smiling

Ok, I made up the last one but there are often other bans and restrictions on normal enjoyment of open space.

Contrast this with the promenade in Portugal. There were dogs, cyclists, skateboarders, runners, walkers, kids having kickarounds, people in bars and restaurants, lying out in the sun, swimmers, frisbee players etc. etc. Were we mired in dog shit and in fear of being mangled by crazed cyclists? Well, there was some dog dirt until it was cleaned up and I did see a segway clip a wall – its rider took a tumble but was helped by those nearby.  However, it needs to be emphasised that people, animals and activities shared the relatively confined space without difficulty. People were tolerant and courteous; they were unafraid of each other or pets. Sure, there were rules but they were designed to increase the uses to which the promenade could be put.

Incidentally, cyclists brought their bikes on to the train and cycled off down the platform when they alighted.

It seems to me that Ireland is increasingly an intolerant and unfree place to live. Ordinary pleasures are restricted by petty rules driven by a daft, authoritarian desire to eliminate all risks. Anything that could possibly lead to a problem or an accident is likely to be banned.

It is not liberals but socialists who should do most to stop and then reduce our over-government. I say this because socialists rely on state power to tackle inequality and a range of social ills and it is socialist reform which will be most damaged by a loss of public confidence or even a rise in public antagonism to regulation. Silly, petty rules discredit the constructive use of state power. It is time to review all of our rules. Any rule, for which a truly compelling reason cannot be advanced, should be deleted. A start could be made by removing from our public areas those oppressive signs which outlaw simple pleasures.

Incidentally, an acquaintance of mine had an Official walk about a mile of deserted Sligo beach in order to tell him that his dog wasn’t allowed swim but must be kept on a lead. And another, in a park close to where I live I watched as an official drove his pick-up truck across a field in order to prevent a seven year old girl from riding her bike. This is madness. Stop it. We need to be closer to Portugal than Portrane.