GALWAY horse producer and young farmer Aoife McCabe says the prospect of a greenway going through the middle of her family farm is keeping her awake at night.
Aoife runs Atlantic Stables in Kilcolgan, Co Galway, as well as breeding horses, pedigree Zwartbles and commercial sheep. Plans for the proposed Athlone to Galway greenway show the ‘preferred corridor’ running through the middle of McCabe’s farm, as well as three neighbouring farms.
“We are not against the greenway in any way, we are happy to give up part of our land roadside, to join it with a cycleway already there, but just not dividing the farm. What would you do if horse got loose, which does happen with young horses,” Aoife, who was jumping in the national classes at Balmoral this week, told The Irish Field.
“As part of the procedure, land owners are supposed to be contacted directly, we haven’t been contacted at all.”
Aoife believes the proposal is for an eight-metre greenway through the middle of her 27-acre farm. “We have made a 3km road through our farm, we have storage sheds at the bottom of the land. We cut hay ledge, hack horses, it just wouldn’t work with a greenway through it.
“We have done a huge amount of reclamation on our farm. As young farmers, we are trying to get the business to work and to think we could have this in the future; we are not sleeping at night.
“I have planted 3,500 trees in last few years trying to make the farm diverse and environmentally friendly; I am trying to be diverse in farming sheep and horses, to not be too intensive in any capacity.”
Aoife says she could not possibly be compensated for the work she has put into the land.
“We have put in an arena, a road way, a shed, a walker, fenced the whole field into paddocks. I don’t even know how that could be compensated. They are trying to push it is a financial reward, it is not.
“From a young horse production business, it is a long term commitment, and it is only coming into fruition now, it is scary to have this huge blockage in the business plan. As a young female farmer, it is hard enough going without this hanging over my head.
“Our wish is that the greenway goes roadside; it is not our intention to stop it, we are happy for it to go ahead, but we really want it to be roadside,” added the show jumper who recently sold the seven-year-old Irish-bred LVS Vigo to Paul Schockemöhle, to be ridden by the German 2018 WEG bronze medallist Laura Klaphake.
Aoife’s neighbour is cattle farmer Ray Finnerty who is proactive in trying to meet with a council representative.
“I am not against the greenway in any world, I will do anything I can to help, but we can’t allow them to come in and split up family farms. There seems to be a new rule every day, I can’t get to the bottom of it.”
Finnerty says despite countless requests for a meeting with the Galway County Council, they have been unsuccessful so far.
“We want to meet as a group, not individually. We don’t want to be fighting with them, we just want to meet.”
In response to a query from The Irish Field, Derek Pender, Director of Services in the Infrastructure and Operations Unit of Galway County Council, said: “Firstly, it’s important to point out that at this stage of the process all that has been identified is a “preferred corridor” not a specific route. Within that corridor there are many possible routes – so as of yet individual landholdings have not been finalised.
“I am at pains to point out that the project team will and are meeting anyone, anywhere, anytime. No-one is refused a meeting. The corridor is 200km long and there are a lot of people to meet and some people may have to wait longer than we or they would hope – but everyone is being met and will indeed have had multiple meetings before the process concludes.
“I can confirm that Galway County Council will make every effort to minimise the number of private land holdings directly affected by the proposed Athlone to Galway Greenway.”
Pender added that Project Liaison Officers have had over 450 face-to-face or phone calls meetings with landowners since January and three separate public consultation events have taken place since August 2020.