Ar an gcéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil as an deis a labhairt ar an ábhar seo sa Teach anocht. I thank the Minister coming in to take the matter. It moves seamlessly on from the previous discussion about airports moving into this area of tourism.
My overall objective and a dream I would like to realise, which I share with many of my constituents and many people across west Cork, is to be able to get off the aeroplane in Cork Airport and walk or cycle down into west Cork, and continue the journey through west Cork either on foot or by bike. While it sounds a bit romantic and a bit of a dream, there is a lot of work done to date on realising that dream. There is an incredible community spirit locally in west Cork and we have a long history of tourism. It is a discussion I have had on numerous occasions with the present Minister, Deputy Donohoe, and with his predecessor Deputy Varadkar, as well as the Minister of State, Deputy Ring. I have tried to realise that dream of developing walkways, what are known as greenways - blueways, of course, are the same thing through water - across west Cork in conjunction with the local people and Cork County Council and its officials. I had a meeting recently with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, with a view to ensuring that funding is made available to Deputy Donohoe's department for this specific issue.
I held a public meeting in west Cork last Monday night week in the Emmet Hotel in Clonakilty. I did not do much advertising for it, it was just carried in the local newspaper a couple of weeks ahead of the date. The crowd was massive, but what was far more impressive was the enthusiasm of the people. It was infectious. The amount of work people had done was striking, like the west Cork cycling group, which has already designated a 200 km cycle around west Cork for which they are developing an app that can be downloaded to phones. Sean Collins of that club spoke in great detail about developing the app and making it available. Very little money would be needed to signpost that route. They also have a smaller route of about 26 km ready to go.
The Acting Chairman would be no stranger to west Cork himself, of course, and would be familiar with the very natural and existing beauty. I know the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, has holidayed there on many occasions and has come back to me with glowing reports. That is no surprise to me. We have a natural infrastructure there, but we also had an infrastructure at one time that was taken from us. Unfortunately there is nothing that can be done about that now. That is the railway line, of course, which also comes under the Minister's Department. The railway line was closed long before Deputy Donohoe's time, when the good people of west Cork were denied their railway. The line is still there, however, and Cork County Council has done a feasibility study and identified a 26 km walk all the way down it to Courtmacsherry. We hope to develop that as a greenway so people can walk, cycle, run or whatever takes their fancy on that route.
We also want to develop numerous other walkways and trails and it would remiss of me not to acknowledge the serious amount of work done by many groups in west Cork already. Drimoleague would be one, where David Ross and his people have developed a number of trails and walkways. There is beautiful scenery and the area is made for that kind of exercise.
In addition to talking about tourism and bringing tourists into west Cork to avail of these facilities, there is huge demand from the domestic market, from the local residents who want to get out and exercise. I noted driving into Dublin today that a massive number of people were out walking and running even though the weather was not that conducive to it. People are very conscious of their health and they want to get out, get active and get exercise. It is a great way to spend time with our children. The roads have gotten so much busier now, so people want to do this exercise off-road.
I am very passionate about this, and I believe money is starting to come into the Exchequer. We have to reinvest back into our futures. This ticks so many boxes on so many different levels - physical health and well-being, mental health and well-being, as well as the tourism boxes. There is a huge appetite from the local population for it as evidenced at the meeting.