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New Community-Led Plan for The Corrib, Ireland's Second Largest Lake

29th April 2019
Lough Corrib, second largest lake in Ireland after Lough Neagh, which is the focus of a new community partnership to transform it into Ireland's lake district for walkers Lough Corrib, second largest lake in Ireland after Lough Neagh, which is the focus of a new community partnership to transform it into Ireland's lake district for walkers Photo: Bartley Fannin

Oscar Wilde’s surgeon dad waxed lyrical about it, Vikings lost their weapons in it, and poitín makers and anglers have shared their knowledge of its rocks and islands.

The Corrib – this island’s second largest lake after Lough Neagh – is also host for the Cong-Galway yacht race, which is said to be Europe’s oldest contest of its type.

Game anglers are well familiar with the Corrib, but the catchment could also be Ireland’s Cumbria, a new group says.

The Corrib Beo catchment partnership, which is holding its first conference later this week in Galway (May 2), describes itself as a “coalition of activists and interest groups” which aims to realise a new “shared vision” for the freshwater environment.

It aims to develop a 25-year plan for the entire system extending from Cong and Lisloughrey to Galway city.

“The Wild Atlantic Way is attracting record numbers, but those same visitors attracted to the coastline should know that the Corrib is the pendant on that necklace,” Corrib Beo co-founder Denis Goggin, says.

The Corrib is a special area of conservation, and surgeon Sir William Wilde was author of its best-known history, Lough Corrib: Its Shores and Islands, published in 1867.

A 4,500-year-old log boat was among 12 early Bronze Age, Iron Age and medieval craft and several Viking-style battle axes discovered over five years ago by marine surveyor Capt Trevor Northage during his work to update the charts of the lake.

The 44 km-long waterway is managed by a number of State agencies and the two local authorities in Galway and Mayo. The lake rich in wildlife faces constant pressures from pollution and invasive species, such as the curly waterweed, Lagarosiphon Major, which Inland Fisheries Ireland has been tackling.

The Corrib Navigation Trustees, who report to Galway City Council, are responsible for maintenance of navigation aids, piers, the Eglinton canal system and associated walkways and lock gates.

Irish walkers are well familiar with the quartzite Maaumturks and the Maaumtrasna and Partry mountains which provide the backdrop to its limestone pavements, along with the bog-carpeted granite of south Connemara.

However, its potential does not have the international caches of Cumbria and the Lake District which attracted over 47 million visitors in 2017, according to Mr Goggin.

The region, embracing England’s highest mountains and the Lake District national park, employed over 38,000 people and generated £2.9 billion sterling to the region's economy according to 2017 figures issued by Cumbria Tourism.

“We are not saying we want the Corrib system overrun by international visitors in the way the Lake District can be, but there is scope for further sustainable development,” Mr Goggin said.

“The lake has several peripheral areas suffering from depopulation which could do with a boost,” he explains.

“Recently, a few of us travelled north to learn more about the Belfast Agenda, the community plan for Belfast which takes a partnership approach,” Mr Goggin says.

“All of the agencies and community groups are working there towards a common theme to transform one of the British empire’s largest industrial bases into a tourist venue, and we need to take a collective approach towards the Corrib here,” he says.

“The Corrib system is like an orchestra, with three different strands of economy, community and environment being like its wind, percussion and string instruments,” Mr Goggin says.

“The challenges presented in planning for the care, protection and sustainable development of the Corrib are a microcosm of the greater humanitarian and environmental challenges of our age,” the Corrib Beo group says.

“ However, the timing of this new initiative to address these challenges has never been more favourable in terms of the supports available at European, national and local level,” it says, and there is “much community goodwill”.

Corrib Beo is hosting its first conference on May 2nd in Galway’s Commercial Boat Club on Steamers’ Quay, and such is the interest that places are almost booked out already.

Former Environmental Protection Agency director Dr Micheál Ó Cinnéide will chair the day-long event, and speakers will include environmentalists Duncan Stewart and Brendan Smith.

Representatives from many different groups who are “already involved and interested in the protection and development of the Corrib waterways”, will also participate.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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