At a Public Debate held on Monday, 14 May in the Walter Raleigh Hotel, discussions were opened on the proposal for a Greenway or Railway for Youghal. The meeting though well attended, lacked local representatives and business people from the town and surrounding areas.
Speakers included Liam Quaid (Green Party), Dan Boyle (Green Party) Pat Buckley TD (Sinn Féin), Kevin O’Keeffe TD (Fianna Fáil) and Eamon Ryan TD (Green Party).
Local historian, Tony Harpur presented a very informative talk on the history of the Youghal to Cork Railway line, from its beginnings in 1860 to the final excursion train in 1988. Each speaker addressed the meeting for approximately 5 minutes, presenting their ideas for the future of Youghal with regard to both Greenway and Railway, and they each recognised that the people of Youghal have felt “isolated” when it comes to future plans for the growth of Cork. The economic downturn experienced and evidenced in Youghal has been felt by each resident, and was spoken of by many participants at the Public Debate.
Whilst it was obvious that everyone would welcome the return of a train service linking Youghal to Midleton, Cork City and beyond, Cllr Pat Buckley also spoke of the absolute “need to be realistic” in the planning, setting and achievement of goals in future plans for the town. He told how a Greenway initiative has already progressed to Part 8 Planning, which is the setting out of procedures for development by Cork County Council. A Public Consultation, which is an intrinsic part of that process, is expected from Cork County Council very soon.
The feedback from townspeople present at the meeting was that they want something which is achievable now! They do not want to wait years for feasibility studies, funding, and planning for a Railway at the expense of a Greenway going ahead in the near future. “We need something now” an audience member said.
Eamon Ryan, towards the end of the Debate, advised Youghal to “take the Greenway because, once that comes, Youghal will get a huge boost”. From there, plans and discussions for the return of the railway will be on a stronger footing as the town gets busier. Progress is not always a straight line, and initiatives must be led and defined by the local people. trader Kay Curtin, local trader, said "Why not have both? The Greenway is nearly ready to go, and we would welcome it with open arms knowing the impact it has had on neighbouring business in Dungarvan. It is important, though, that we don't lose focus on future development of the railway line, which would also be essential, especially for young people from Youghal attending colleges in the city who can't afford cars or the high cost of motor insurance."
Jimmy Flanagan, member of Youghal4All committee, echoed Kay's statement and added that he was grateful to the speakers for keeping the locals informed of what was going on.
Michéal de Buitléir, a member of the Youghal Community Group Forum said "it is important that the lines of communication between those with an interest in the development of Youghal, and all those in authority, be kept open to keep the ball rolling on plans for the future of the town”. There is no doubt that the discussions must continue. An open, transparent forum enabling those who will be most affected to have their opinions and ideas heard, not only by their peers but also by their local representatives".
Monday night’s Public Debate was just the beginning but, crucially, a reminder also to the people of Youghal that things can improve if there are enough people with a common goal to stand up and speak with passion, be realistic and have a well thought out plan in place.
Speaking with The East Cork Journal following the Debate, Pat Buckley TD said "The potential for tourism in Youghal is huge, not just for the magnificent beach but also for the historic relevance of the town, which is part of Ireland's Ancient East. A Greenway will further enhance its attraction to tourists and visitors alike.