Seanad debates

Monday, 5 July 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Cycling Facilities

10:30 am

Photo of Emer CurrieEmer Currie (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I am not going to ask him about anything that the Government does not already agree with in principle. The Liffey valley is recognised as a special amenity area. It is an area of outstanding beauty and special recreational value.The Minister of State will be aware it is recognised by Fingal County Council, South Dublin County Council and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications. Time has stood still, however. Nothing of note has happened regarding conservation or to enhance the Strawberry Beds as an amenity area since the early 1990s. My father was a Deputy then, and time has stood still since. This is despite the wonderful assets in the area and the stunning natural environment, including Shackleton Mills, which has been described as the jewel in the crown of heritage assets in Fingal. It has not been developed, but it has been obtained. It was a water-powered flour mill from the 1770s. There is also the Silver Bridge, also known as the Farmleigh Bridge, which was built by the Guinness family in the 19th century to supply electricity and water from the Liffey Valley as well as to cater for workers coming from Palmerstown. Waterstown Park, to which the bridge connects, is another beautiful park in the area, with 300 species of plants, animals and birds, a 5 km track and a natural playground. Weirs are dotted along the Strawberry Beds which people do not know about. The best way to enjoy that area is by kayak, because the roads are used as a rat run for the M50.

I have recently been successful in having the area designated as being for cycling. Eighteen signs have gone up and lining is going onto the tarmacadam over the summer. However, I was not successful in getting advisory cycle lanes because that would necessitate having lighting on the road. All these changes are not enough, however. Until Covid-19, this area had fallen between two metropolitan stools, namely, Blanchardstown on one side and Fonthill and Lucan on the other. It has an underutilised strategic purpose. Opportunities have been missed over the years in this regard, including the 260 acres at St. Edmundsbury which were sold by the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, ten years ago. There were calls at that time to purchase the land to create a Liffey Valley national park and to join up the lands from Islandbridge to St. Catherine’s Park in Leixlip and including Lucan Demesne, which was secured under the auspices of the rainbow Government many years ago.

During Covid-19, businesses sprouted up in the area as well. These include the Strawberry Hall, which has evolved with Goats Gruff. The Wren’s Nest is also evolving its businesses now, and the Angler’s Rest has been there for many years. There is also a market at St. Catherine’s Park, while Lucan village itself is being marked as a destination town, with €2 million going into the public realm and tourism in that regard. The Liffey Valley Trail is something I steered, along with Councillor Howard Mahony, when I was on Fingal County Council. We started a tourism working group, and Councillor Siobhan Shovlin is working on that aspect now as well. We have launched the trail as a tourism proposition and €140,000 has been secured from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media to restore the Silver Bridge.

In addition, the canal loop is going to join the future greenways on the Royal and Grand canals. We need to do more in this regard, however. All these changes are coming because of the beauty and value of this area, yet it is behind and at the periphery. We would not hide away the history and beauty of the Mona Lisa, yet we are not establishing this area and taking advantage of its potential. The localism we have witnessed because of the impact of Covid-19 has highlighted the potential more. Therefore, a feasibility study by the Department of Transport is needed to examine cycling and walking along a route between the Phoenix Park and St. Catherine’s Park via the Strawberry Beds. It is not the busiest commuter route, but it could be of more recreational value. We must think bigger about this project. It must encompass Fingal County Council and South Dublin County Council and establish and develop the area as an official park and, potentially, as a recreational amenity.


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