Special Areas of Conservation in Connemara are holding back urgent capacity and safety upgrades required along the N59 route in and out of Galway, despite the fact that Galway County Council has lodged planning applications to carry out re-alignment works.

A campaign is now being launched by the people of Connemara to lobby for the upgrade works in light of the many accidents and dangerous driving conditions along the route.

The issue is examined in detail on Galway County Matters on IRISH TV this week as haulage contractor Dermot Laffy who drives the N59 on a regular basis through places including Clifden, Letterfrack and Kylemore takes the camera crew on a sample trip.

 “It is not easy on these roads in Connemara, we have a lot of obstacles, with road width, bushes and telegraph pole problems leading to accidents because people have to move out to avoid them”, says Laffy.

“Many a time I have been stuck for an hour on a narrow stretch where we have to drive up and back down. In busy times with heavy traffic one cannot go back while one can’t go forward.”

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Nothing that accidents are commonplace along the route,  Laffy recalled a recent incident of an older couple having to be airlifted to hospital following a serious crash. “The emergency services on route to the scene also got into an accident when the vehicle could not pass a bus.”

The poor state of the road is also taking away from tourism potential in the area, according to Laffy.

“We would have an awful lot more buses in Connemara if we had a good road. So many bus drivers have said they can’t come because their vehicles are so badly damaged and getting beaten up on this route. There has to be a compromise on this.”

Liam Gavin, Director of Services, Roads and Transportation with Galway Council Council confirmed that the N59 from Oughterard to Clifden is in particularly poor condition, is  unsafe and in need of remediation and realignment.

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“We recognise the need for upgrade and accept that capacity and alignment is poor and the surface needs to be redone as quickly as possible. Galway County Council is anxious to do this work and has submitted a planning application to An Bord Pleanála (ABP) seeking permission for a section from Oughterard to Maam Cross. However, ABP has already turned down an application for the Maam Cross to Clifden section.

“The big issue is the environmental designations.  The route passes through very sensitive landscapes. To get planning permission because of the Special Areas of Conservation can take 3-5 years and another 2-3 to get up and running on the construction side, so we are quite a distance away from delivering realignment there. We are looking to overlay the route in the interests of safety in the interim. “


Former Connemara councillor, Seosaimh O Cuaig said while locals were all in favour of preserving things in Connemara, 80% of Connemara is under SAC.

“We are left with a little strip along the way to live – I call it the Gaza strip. This is not fair by any means.  We are not out to destroy SACs, all we need is a narrow corridor to have this road, it is our only route in or out to the rest of the country or of Europe.”

He contended that the Irish Government did not have to implement the SACs as they were only recommended by the European Commission. “It is up to each country to draw up its own boundaries.”

The cause has now united North Connemara and Irish-speaking South Connemara, he said.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen a campaign like this. It has just started but after next month it will be action and it is going to be real action. We will go all out. We need to get the national politicians interested. Shell in Mayo were turned down the first time they applied to build the Corrib Oil gas field but lo and behold Bertie Ahern Taoiseach said they would have another look if they reapplied and I think Galway County Council should reapply also.”

Galway County Matters presented by Jimmy Norman airs on Thursday October 20th at 7.30pm.

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One Comment
  1. The conservation of Connemara is definitely an important priority. However, protection of the environment is not simply about avoiding road widening and taking care of wild life. It’s also very much about social fabric and providing appropriate amenities so that communities can thrive and take care of their environment. When the National Roads Authority wanted to drive a motorway through Tara for the convenience of commuters in the Dublin area they were able to do it. Why can’t this much less damaging road improvement in West Galway be fast-tracked?

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