Call for closure of Burren pending development of parking

Residents ‘prisoners in their own homes’ because of congestion and illegal parking

Mullaghmore attracts hundreds of visitors each day throughout the tourist season

Mullaghmore attracts hundreds of visitors each day throughout the tourist season

 

The Burren National Park in Co Clare should be closed to tourists until parking facilities are developed, residents living close to Mullaghmore mountain have said.

The Kilnaboy Community Development Group (KCDG) has said residents are “prisoners in their own homes” because of ongoing traffic congestion and illegal parking in the area.

The group said more than 60 local families face ongoing disruption to their lives and businesses for more than six months each year, during the tourist season.

Mullaghmore has been at the centre of controversy since an unsuccessful attempt by the Office of Public Works to construct an interpretive centre at the site in 1991.

It attracts hundreds of visitors each day throughout the tourist season and is served by a single parking lay-by which can accommodate just five or six cars.

Burren farmer and member of the KCDG, Brendan Flanagan, said local people have been “driven mad” by the ongoing disruption to their lives.

“Each summer it gets worse. There are 60 or 70 cars on the green road [which leads to Mullaghmore] all the way through the summer. It is continuous from 8am to 8pm each evening. It is impossible for local residents and farmers to use this road and access their own property,” he said.

“There is a man living up that road with his elderly mother and, God forbid something happens, there is no way you could get up there with an ambulance or fire brigade.”

Several other roads in the area around Mullaghmore have also been affected, he said, making it difficult for people trying to bring kids to school or going to Mass.

“Farmers have to get up at the crack of dawn just to try and get to and from their land before the crowds come and block the roads. We are being made prisoners in our own homes.”

In a statement to The Irish Times, the KCDG called on Minister with responsibility for the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Josepha Madigan, to take immediate action to solve traffic congestion in the Burren.

“We are calling on Minister Madigan to either provide a car park or close the Burren National Park. There are abandoned cars everywhere blocking farmers access to land and causing serious health and safety concerns for the local community,” said a spokesman.

“These roads date back thousands of years and are an important feature of the Burren. The Minister should close these roads to tourist traffic immediately, both to protect them and to restore proper access to homes and farms on the road, access that dates back generations.”

Management plan

A spokesman from the NPWS said it was “neither practical nor feasible” to close the Burren National Park to tourists but it was working with Clare County Council to find a solution to the problem.

“The management plan for the Burren National Park considers, among other issues, potential options for traffic management to alleviate parking and traffic congestion at the national park,” he said.

“As part of the process, in the course of consultation with Clare County Council, the Department [of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht] was informed of the council’s desire to produce a ‘vision statement’ incorporating the entirety of the Burren.”

“The department agreed to participate in this exercise, which should be completed shortly.”

He said the department had agreed to postpone finalisation of the management plan for the national park to enable it to be informed by the outcome of the vision statement for the whole Burren.

In 2013, the NPWS lodged plans to construct a car park at Mullaghmore but this proposal was withdrawn following opposition from some local people, including members of the Burren Action Group.

In 2017, the council and the NPWS completed the McGrath report on the future management of the Burren which included the provision of a car park close to Mullaghmore.

A council spokesman said the local authority was happy to meet with the KCDG.

“Clare County Council and NPWS have been engaging on a regular basis over the past 12 months to review this matter,” he said.

“The matter of the opening or closing of the Burren National Park is a matter for the NPWS. It is not a matter for Clare County Council.”

The spokesman also said that pre-planning discussions had already taken place with the planning section of the council with regard to implementing the recommendations of the McGrath report.