Look at this map of the motorway network and see what strikes you.
First of all, it isn’t a network. It’s more of a half bicycle wheel, since everything seems to radiate from Dublin, except for the section between Limerick and Galway, and you’ll notice there’s nothing between Cork and Limerick or Galway and Sligo.
Second, there seems to be an awful lot of duplication. The M6 and the M7 run virtually parallel to each other, not more than 60 miles apart at the furthest point, and converging rapidly as they go eastward. With rational advance planning, would it not have been possible to build a single motorway somewhere between the two, and use the money saved to build another motorway somewhere else, perhaps connecting Cork with Limerick, and Galway with Sligo?
Likewise, the M8 and M9 run pretty much parallel to each other, with about the same separation as the previous two. Could they not have been replaced by a single motorway somewhere in the middle, freeing up money to build, say, a motorway between Waterford and Cork, or heaven forbid, between Sligo and Letterkenny?
Could the M1 and the M3 have been a single road, thereby permitting, for example, Tralee to become part of the network?
Motorways are fiendishly expensive things to construct, especially in Ireland where everybody is into the rip-off, so why this apparent lack of efficiency in their layout?
Let’s not get too paranoid about it and start looking for conspiracies everywhere. I think it’s due to a simple lack of imagination.
I think the NRA decided to slavishly follow the existing road network for no good reason, and then made the disastrous decision to place the detailed design in the hands of regional design offices all over the country, building sections of Irish motorways ad-hoc as funding became available.
And the second disastrous component is political. Instead of taking a good look at proper planning for the country as a whole, it was decided to build the roads like the spokes of a bicycle wheel, all radiating from Dublin, not for any rational reason, but because that’s the way we always did things, with Dublin at the centre of our little universe, and to hell with the rest of the country.
The third reason might have to do with land bought in advance by the relatives of certain politicians along the route of projected motorways, with inside information provided by those politicians, but we won’t get into that. It’s for another day.
Don’t take my word for it. Look at the map. It speaks for itself.