Dispute over Mayo drinking water threatens Clew Bay beach access

Government urged to resolve problem along 20km stretch from Westport to Louisburgh

A six-year-old girl was admitted to hospital last month with cryptosporidium and e-coli. Photograph: Getty Images

A six-year-old girl was admitted to hospital last month with cryptosporidium and e-coli. Photograph: Getty Images


Beaches may be closed by landowners along the southern shores of Clew Bay’s Wild Atlantic Way in a row over the quality of drinking water in the area.

This would be an escalation of the existing threat to close access to Croagh Patrick if the Government does not resolve serious problems with the drinking water system for hundreds of locals and holiday homeowners along a 20km stretch from outside Westport to the village of Louisburgh.

The majority of these householders get their water supply from streams on Croagh Patrick. But they want to be connected to the Lough Mask public water system which services Westport.

They have become increasingly concerned about the issue since a six-year-old was admitted to hospital last month with cryptosporidium and e-coli, while her two siblings were also ill. It was claimed she contracted the illness from brushing her teeth.


Community leaders from Murrisk to Louisburgh asked a public meeting in Lecanvey, Co Mayo, earlier this week for “a mandate to pursue whatever line of protest is required to ensure Mayo County Council addresses the problem”.

Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers attended the meeting and has promised to raise the issue in the Dáil. She criticised the fact that the county council wants the communities to set up a group water scheme which would involve them raising €750,000.

Irish water has confirmed it has no short- or medium-term plans to include this area in its capital investment programme, despite that fact that 110,000 tourists visit the area annually.

It is more than 10 years since then minister for the environment Dick Roche allocated €6.3 million for a public water system from Westport to Louisburgh. While there were plans designed and way leaves [rights of way] purchased the full grant was never drawn down.

Chairman of Murrisk Development Association Chris Grady said they had always predicted “it would take a serious incident, like this hospitalisation of a very sick child, to heighten awareness of the problem with water”.


He added: “The closure of the access points to the Reek [by commonage owners] along with similar action on the access to our beaches is being considered. While we have no wish to cause disruption to the tourist industry or indeed the local population, the lack of action by the present government leaves us with no alternative.”

Last year Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring allocated almost €1 million for the extension of a greenway from Murrisk to Louisburgh. Locals say landowners will not co-operate until the water issue is resolved.