It’s a serious question. What happened to the Atlantic Corridor, bringing transport links and growth to the three cities of the West? Well, we got the Limerick to Galway motorway, and that’s wonderful. But it’s not quite a corridor when on both ends of that lovely piece of tarmac there are roads that are potholed, single lane nightmares.
The Atlantic Corridor, it seems, has been replaced by the Wild Atlantic Way, somewhere for people who don’t live there to admire on their holidays. The Wild Atlantic Way looks great, and all it cost was the price of a few signs and some really nice advertising. Crucially, no new roads are involved. Many of the roads that are involved are quite literally boreens, but sure that only adds to the charm.
Some of us live here, though, and we’d like it to be more than just a holiday destination. And I’m not talking about Galley Head (above) or Castletownbere, or Dingle. I’m talking about three of Ireland’s cities which, though they are all lovely, would be a lot more viable if they had more infrastructure and were able to attract a portion of the young population that is forced to flee to Dublin for work.
The Greater Dublin area is a monster. One study estimates that by the last quarter of this century, it could be home to 50% of Ireland’s population. The only thing that can redress the desperate imbalance in this growth is proper spatial planning, but that can only happen if there is a political will to do it. And the jacking in of the Dart interconnector – a measure that has already cost millions, and would benefit the entire country through establishing a full North/South rail link – in favour of a Metro for one part of Dublin, is symptomatic of where the political will lies.
This isn’t a polemic against Dublin or Dubliners. I’m not sure you can even consider yourself a Dubliner if you’ve moved from Cork, because there was no work, because there are fewer opportunities, because there is less infrastructure, to live in Laois or Kildare or Wexford to commute into Dublin. (If you’re from Cork it’s about 400% certain you want to be living in Cork, but that’s mainly a Cork thing.) If you’re from Limerick, Clare, Kerry or Waterford and you are in the same situation, you are there and not in your home county or an adjacent one because there is a lack of opportunity that ties in with the lack of all kinds of infrastructure.
Cork is the Republic’s second city (ignore the game-changing possibility of reunification for now). And yet it is hamstrung by an utter lack of a road network.
The only real road out of Cork goes to Dublin, and nobody cares. Well, nobody who matters – in Dublin, making the decisions – cares.
Cork – Waterford is a terrible road. Cork – Limerick is a terrible road. Cork – Galway – who would even try? As for rail – you can go to Dublin. Or places on the way to Dublin. Other major cities? Computer says no.
The idea of a motorway between Cork and Limerick has been yet again put on the back burner. Not even on the back burner, really, but thrown out the back door with the scraps. It’s not even a possibility. We spoke to Munster Rugby CEO Garret Fitzgerald about it on today’s Opinion Line:
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So many of the scenarios we deal with on the Opinion Line on a daily basis (having to travel to Dublin to fly, for example) would be utterly changed with a viable Atlantic Corridor. Shannon Airport should be only an hour away. Work in Shannon, or Limerick, should be an hour away, and vice versa. Cork has a lot to offer as a hub for all of Munster – which I think is what Simon Coveney is hoping for with his super council plan – but that is never going to happen when it is this inaccessible.
The Western Corridor should be a viable alternative to Dublin and it isn’t, because the political will isn’t there to make it so. As a committed resident of that corridor, having lived in all three cities, this saddens me enormously because all these places have so much to offer, but they’d have a lot more if the infrastructure was there to support it.