Limerick farmer who could lose land to M20: ‘I’ve argued against it, not that they’d listen’

Stakeholders argues that projected traffic volumes do not justify price of €2bn-€3bn

Jimmy Sheehy on his farm in Co Limerick. Photograph: Alan Place

Jimmy Sheehy, whose 173-acre farm in Granagh, Co Limerick, is on the proposed route for the M20 motorway, may not agree with Green Party leader Eamon Ryan on much, but he agrees with him about the motorway.

Ryan has raised concerns about the estimated €3 billion cost of the upgrade of the main road between Cork and Limerick and suggested the money might be better spent on other projects.

"It seems they're intent on cutting up some of the best dairy land in the country," says Sheehy (64), who argues that Buttevant and Charleville should be bypassed and the rest of the existing N20 road be upgraded.

“But, of course, they won’t do that because it will cause too much disruption to everyone else. I’m farming here all my life, and my father before me, and we all have to fight our own corner.”


Sheehy faces losing 21 of his best milk-producing acres at Ballinleena, Granagh. “I’ve argued against it, not that they’d listen to me. My advice always was, ‘Can’t you improve the existing road?',”

He is unhappy with the consultation that has taken place so far. “They’d never listen to you, and they had an office in Mallow and you’d be summoned up there every now and again, and you’d be told what they were going to do with your land.

“Any other farmers affected would be of the same view as me, except maybe someone who is thinking of retiring and happy to get a bit of a lump sum, and it’s hard to blame them for that,” he says.

Insufficient traffic

Further up the road, over the border, a group of concerned stakeholders – the Cork-Limerick Alliance Group (CLAG) – comprising 1,500 landowners, businesspeople and farmers, are also opposed to the motorway.

The group's chairman, Brian Hyde, argues the better solution would be for the motorway to run from Limerick to Cahir, Co Tipperary, linking with the existing M8 and cutting costs by a third and causing less disruption. The M20 is not necessary, since just 3,000 vehicles travel between the two cities daily, says Hyde, who is based in Mallow. "And that figure was almost exactly the same back in 2010."

He notes Transport Infrastructure Ireland’s projections that traffic numbers will rise to 4,000-6,000 vehicles a day by 2030.

“So they’re designing a motorway to take 57,000 vehicles at a cost of €2 billion-€3 billion, to take, if their figures stand up, 4,000-6,000 vehicles. That’s going to be less than 7 per cent capacity.

"That motorway will then end up in a bottleneck in Blackpool in Cork, so they will have to put in a link road, because most of our industry is on the eastern side of Cork city, including the deep water port," he says. "Yes, the N20 needs to be upgraded by bypassing Buttevant and Charleville, and realign the road where necessary, but the traffic flows don't justify spending €2 billion-€3 billion."