Controversy has arisen over an allocation of €118,000 euro last December by Minister Michael Ring to a Kiltimagh tourism development project.
The decision by the Minister for Rural & Community Affairs to allocate the funding to the Velo-Rail project, pioneered by Kiltimagh Tourism and IRD with support from Mayo County Council, was highlighted in the Sunday Times, and the Mail on Sunday at the weekend.
The funding at the end of last year was a direct follow-on from an allocation of €180,000 by Minister Ring for the project under the 2016 Rural Recreation Scheme.
The Velo-Rail project is being developed on a stretch of the old railway line that runs from Claremorris to Collooney.
It’s planned to develop 12 kilometres of the track, mainly on the Claremorris side of Kiltimagh, as well as a shorter stretch on the Swinford side. The last official trains ran on this line back in the 1970s.
Velo-Rail is an outdoor recreational activity using small rail-mounted pedal-propelled vehicles to move along a disused railway line.
The article in the Sunday newspapers states that Minister Ring allocated almost €120,000 to a project in his constituency - despite warnings from civil servants that it could set “problematic precedents”.
One official said the project appeared to have the least merit of four proposals that were seeking extra funding.
The CEO of Kiltimagh IRD Joe Kelly says the Velo-Rail project, which should be completed later this year or early in 2019, will be a unique tourism attraction, and could bring up to 30,000 people to the area as well as creating local jobs.
He says this is the first velo-rail project to be developed in Ireland or the UK, and has praised Minister Ring for recognising its potential benefits.