Byrne overjoyed as hardcore Barrow track bid rejected
A controversial new tourist attraction opposed by a host of Irish personalities, including actor Gabriel Byrne, has been turned down by An Bord Pleanala.
The planning watchdog has refused permission for Waterways Ireland to turn the 115km-long Barrow Blueway into a hardcore multi-use leisure track.
A bitter row has raged for several years between Waterways Ireland and people living beside the Barrow river as it snakes through Kildare, Laois and Carlow counties.
Last year, Carlow County Council refused Waterways Ireland permission to turn the historic grassy walkway - which dates from the 12th century - into a leisure track.
Kildare and Laois county councils, however, were in favour of the development.
Waterways Ireland sought to have Carlow's decision overturned, but the planning board has blocked the move.
Usual Suspects actor Byrne, Moya Doherty and John McColgan of Riverdance fame, environmentalist Eanna Ni Lamhna and broadcaster Olivia O'Leary were opposed to the development.
The grassy walkway stretches from Kildare to Carlow, passing through Laois and the towns of Rathangan, Monasterevin, Vicarstown, Athy, Carlow, Leighlinbridge, Bagenalstown, Goresbridge, Graiguenamanagh and St Mullins.
Waterways Ireland has been given the green light for the new track along the canal section north of Athy, Co Kildare.
Green Party spokesperson and Kilkenny councillor, Malcolm Noonan, welcomed the announcement.
"Among the reasons for refusal was the potential impact of the pathway on the River Barrow," he said. "Well done to all those who campaigned to conserve the ecology of the natural river banks."
Waterways Ireland has yet to comment on the decision. Byrne, known for his roles in Hereditary and the Lies We Tell, and who lived in the area for several years, was overjoyed at the news.
"I think to damage what has been there for several hundred years, to damage the banks and disrupt the species would be something that anyone who cares about the environment wouldn't want to see.
"It is a part of the country I absolutely adore.
"I think Waterways Ireland do tremendous work, but my fears were that this new surface would have a detrimental effect on the environment.
"It has an incredibly complex eco-system with flora, fauna and wildlife."