Landowners threaten to block access to Croagh Patrick

Locals protest over water quality as young child diagnosed with e-coli, cryptosporidium

 Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo: Thousands of people, many of them tourists, climb the mountain, known locally as the Reek, each year. Photograph: Eric Luke

Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo: Thousands of people, many of them tourists, climb the mountain, known locally as the Reek, each year. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Croagh Patrick may be off limits this summer if local landowners carry out a threat to close access to commonage in a protest over water quality.

Thousands of people, many of them tourists, climb the mountain, known locally as the Reek, each year, mostly between spring and autumn.

On Reek Sunday, the last Sunday in July, over 20,000 Christian pilgrims climb the mountain from dawn to dusk, following a pagan ritual that predates St Patrick’s proselytizing in the area.

The way up the ‘Holy Mountain’ from Murrisk on the shore of Clew Bay has been dubbed “the worst damaged pathway [in public use] in the UK and Ireland” by a mountaineering expert commissioned to carry out a report in 2013.

Now it has emerged that a young child from the village of Murrisk, where some 110,000 people converge each year to climb the pyramidal quartz mountain, was recently admitted to Mayo University Hospital (MUH) where she was diagnosed with e-coli and cryptosporidium.

The incident has served to highlight the seriousness of the water problem in the area, according to Chris Grady, the Chairman of Murrisk Development Association (MDA).

Mr Grady has confirmed “people with commonage rights have suggested blocking the pathway” at two separate community meetings.

This is to highlight the fact that the area – situated along the Wild Atlantic Way and home also to the National Famine Monuments, a vibrant population and hundreds of holiday homes – is reliant on water coming from streams on the mountain.

‘Anything is liable to happen’

“It would be a shame if the communities affected have to resort to such an option as the tourism season starts off. It would be a much better option to explore how we can go forward reasonably, but anything is liable to happen at this stage, with children from the village getting sick and being hospitalised,” Mr Grady said.

Mr Grady confirmed that a public meeting will be held next Monday night to discuss the issue and decide on what action to take. The meeting will also consider whether to re-erect signage stating that the water is not fit for purpose.

He confirmed that local TD, Minister Michael Ring had given assurances of his support for the campaign to extend the public water system from Westport to Louisburgh.

“I believe he has had communications with private individuals from the area saying he is continuing to work with Mayo County Council to try to resolve the issue,” Chris Grady said.

Group water scheme

Mayo County Council wants the Murrisk community to set up its own group water scheme despite the fact that during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s it was repeatedly turned down because, as Mr Grady recalls, “all our water sources were coming from streams on the mountain and therefore not suitable”.

Moreover, the then minister for the environment Dick Roche allocated €6.3 million for a public water project in 2007, and, while the total grant was never drawn down, €500,000 was spent on a design for the system. The system would have involved the Lough Mask public water system being extended to Louisburgh.

Last January, the campaign for clean water gathered 1,300 signatures in just three weeks.

However, an Irish Water spokeswoman said at the time that the utility “has no plans or funding allocated for such a project in the 2017 to 2021 Capital Investment Programme”.

A recent Mayo County Council presentation on parking charges confirmed a revenue of €67,159.99 from the car park at the base of Croagh Patrick during 2017.