Local Knowledge: Unlocking Connemara's Potential

Local Knowledge: Unlocking Connemara's Potential

Rosaleen Ni Shúilleabhaín is a native of Rosmuc, and the Rural Recreation Officer for County Galway, working for Forum Connemara CLG.  She is involved in the development of The Connemara Greenway and Blueway initiative as well as The Western Way Long Distance Trail. An avid outdoor enthusiast, she loves sailing and races her own Pucan. While based in Clifden she commutes to West Cork regularly as her husband Damian is based in Dunmanway.

I always had a grá for the great outdoors. The sense of freedom and the mechanism in which nature works fascinates me.  As a child growing up in Chicago, I loved our camping trips to Wisconsin and Mom would bring us to the park as often as possible.  It was like a dream come true to a seven year old when we moved home to Rosmuc, where there were no boundaries to our playground.   I became an outdoor instructor in 2000 after being bitten by the sailing bug, I worked as an outdoor instructor on a fulltime/part-time basis in Petersburg Outdoor Education Centre between 2001 and 2012. Since then I have been working for Forum Connemara CLG as the Rural Recreation Officer.  I feel very fortunate to be involved in developing recreation infrastructure in Co. Galway, in particular Connemara.

(Pucan Racing)


The key ingredients in the creation, management and development of such projects as The Connemara Greenaway and Blueways initiatives are communication and patience.  Consultation is top of the list especially with landowners.  Once people are informed and you keep the lines of communication open, you have the basis for anything.  Establishing a good working relationship with a landowner can be equally, if not more satisfactory than opening a new trail.  In regard to patience, it is important to be patient with all relevant stake holders while they are brought to the table and during big decisions. However, it is just as important for me to be patient.  This type of work can be slow and as long as projects are moving forward, it is worth being patient because anything that is worthwhile doesn’t happen overnight.

I am very passionate about is the Western Way Long distance walking trail. It starts in Oughterard and over 200kms later finishes in Bunnyconnlon on the Mayo/Sligo boarder. The trail brings you across mountain passes, along riversides, through wild and isolated places. Towns and villages welcome you passing through. I’m working very closely with my counterpart in Mayo Martin Dillane on it as an interterritorial project.

We believe the Western Way has the potential to be one of the top three long distance trails in Ireland competing with the Kerry Way and the Wicklow Way.

In terms of sustainable local industry the seaweed industry was a very good as it gave the local people a small renewable income.  The way in which they cut the seaweed was by hand and each cutter was knowledgeable in where and when to cut and how much.  Not sure how exciting my father would say it was, but with everything happening in Ireland today with the threat of mechanical harvesting, I would hope it would make a comeback.

Sometimes I feel we need to go back and look at how people did things 50-100 years ago in order to move forward.  I would like to see specialised shops and lots of local trades’ people being able to make a living from their shop or profession.  I try to support local as best as I can. 

[courtesy of The Irish Times]

Without sounding too much like a hippie, I often think if we still worshiped Mother Nature the way our ancient ancestors did, would we treat our Earth better.  I feel there is a huge disconnect with nature.  There are huge amounts of nature loving groups online, but how many of its followers actually get out in it and get their hands dirty?

I believe, treat it the way you would like to be treated, whether it’s another human being, a goat, a flower or a thing.  I love minding things, like my VW Golf estate and I feel it wrong for the government to bully us into selling things because they put an expiry date on it and punishing us for taking care of things.  Take my car, as someone said to me before the only thing wrong with your car is the registration plate.  How much energy does it take to make a new car?

[ Lúibín Mhaoirois]

I’m a very positive person and I’m very proud of where I live and come from and tend to see the best in everything.  This comes from growing up in a strong connected community.  As an Irish speaker, I feel a huge connection with our culture.  The language is still strong in the Connemara Gaeltacht which I’m very proud of.  I feel this is partly due to the fact that we use it as a living language.  We mix it with a bit of Béarla and don’t get too caught up in grammar.  I have a huge appreciation for grammar, but feel it can intimidate those trying to speak it.   Stephen Fry once said that language has to evolve in order to survive. 

I hold my diary close to my heart, without it life would be chaotic I’m sure.  It is hard being away from Damian and Lucy our beautiful German Shepard, but I’m very fortunate that I am married to a very patient and understanding West Cork fella who loves being in Connemara too.   I am also very lucky with work.  Forum Connemara has been very good and flexible with me.


I’m extremely conscious of the massive carbon foot print I am creating, but try to combine my journeys between Clifden and Dunmanway, Co. Cork with meetings and site visits.  I try to squeeze every second out of every day and make the most of things. It also saves on individual trips.

I always carry my travel mug, stainless steel water bottle and cotton carry bag.  Small steps, but I feel I’m doing something.  I am trying to only use cruel –free and natural products.  The key with this again is to be organised.  If you run out of toothpaste for example, it very hard to find cruel free products in your local super market!  I have an appreciation for good quality, sustainable clothing and love products like Skunk Funk, Thought and Sea salt, but I am still a devil for Penny’s!!

Name one thing you are good at, one thing you could be better at, and one aspiration.

I like to think I’m objective and a good listener.  I like to gather all the information, process it and then look at the best possible approach or approaches.  I would like to be better at keeping in touch, especially with my siblings.  They often contact me first and even though I think of them an awful lot, I never seem to make the time to pick up the phone. This I will take as an action moving forward.







Ethel Feneran


Ethel Feneran

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