A file picture featured in The Avondhu, dated October 1994, when then councillor John Dunlea was proposing the development of a 'vintage railway line' encorporating the Fermoy viaduct. Although planning has been granted for its development, funding is still awaited.

Amongst continuing delays to the proposed Carrickabrick viaduct walkway development in Fermoy, former councillor John Dunlea remembers his initial proposal for developing the landmark as an amenity … some 23 years ago!

John Dunlea first proposed an ambitious plan to renovate the disused railway line between Beechfield and Clondulane to serve as a “vintage railway” tourist attraction in 1994.

Now, Avondhu Blackwater Partnership are awaiting the release of LEADER funding to commence a project to reopen the Carrickabrick Viaduct in Fermoy as part of a public walkway in the town.

At the time, Mr Dunlea was quoted in The Avondhu as saying he could “see no major problem in raising finance for the project, with grant aid available from many sources under the heading of heritage and tourism through LEADER II.”

The iconic landmark was used to stage a daring aeronautical stunt for the 1966 First World War film, Blue Max, which starred George James Mason and Ursula Andress, and Mr Dunlea believed the site should be preserved and developed as an investment in tourist infrastructure for Fermoy.

“It’s still an amenity that should be developed for the town of Fermoy, but obviously I’d be happier if it had been developed in the meantime,” Mr Dunlea said, speaking to The Avondhu this week. “That was over 20 years ago.”

“It’s a lovely structure, with amazing views, and is a real landmark for the town, so I’ll be delighted with any plan that goes ahead.”

New plans for a walkway were first proposed in 2013, with planning permission granted for the project in 2015.

However, funds for the project from the LEADER fund and Cork County Council under the North Cork LCDC have yet to be released. Money for the project was originally expected to be released in July 2016.

Vice-chairperson of the Avondhu Blackwater Partnership, Cllr Frank O’Flynn, said that the most recent delays with the LEADER funding could be connected to last year’s complaint to the European Commission by the West Cork Development partnership, which triggered controversy and an investigation by the EU Commission in Brussels into the administration of over €250 million in grant aid to rural Ireland between 2014-2020.

“The funds are now expected to be released in the autumn of this year,” Mr O’Flynn said.