ABSTRACT Current basin models for the Western Irish Namurian Basin (WINB) envisage an elongate trough along the line of the present-day Shannon Estuary that was infilled with clastic sediments derived from a hinterland that lay to the W or NW. This paper argues for an alternative basin configuration with source areas to the SW supplying sediment to a basin where deepest water conditions were in northern County Clare. Rapid subsidence along the present-day Shannon Estuary ponded sediment in this area throughout the early Namurian and, only with the rapid increase of sedimentation rates within the mid-Namurian (Kinderscoutian Stage), were substantial amounts of sediment able to prograde to the NE of the basin. This alternative model better explains the overwhelming predominance of NE-directed palaeocurrents in the Namurian infill, but requires fundamental revisions to most aspects of current depositional models.
Deep-water black shales (Clare Shale Formation) initially accumulated throughout the region and were progressively downlapped by an unconfined turbidite system (Ross Formation) prograding to the NE. This in turn was succeeded by an unstable, siltstone-dominated slope system (Gull Island Formation) characterized by large-scale soft-sediment deformation, which also prograded to the NE. In the northern-most basin outcrops, in northern County Clare, this early phase of basin infill was developed as a condensed succession of radiolarian-rich black shales, minor turbiditic sandstones and undisturbed siltstones. The new basin model envisages the northern exposures of County Clare to be a distal, basin floor succession whereas the traditional model considers it a relatively shallow, winnowed, basin margin succession. Later stages of basin infill consist of a series of deltaic cycles that culminate in major, erosive-based sandstone bodies (e.g. Tullig Sandstone) interpreted either as axial, deltaic feeder channels or incised valley fills genetically unrelated to the underlying deltaic facies. Within the context of the new basin model the former alternative is most likely and estimated channel depths within the Tullig Sandstone indicate that the basal erosive surface could have been generated by intrinsic fluvial scour without recourse to base-level fall. The northerly flowing Tullig channels pass down-dip into isolated channel sandbodies interbedded with wave-dominated strata that suggest the deltas of the WINB were considerably more wave-influenced than hitherto proposed. The retreat of the Tullig delta during sea-level rise saw the rapid southerly retrogradation of parasequences, as may be expected if the basin margin lay to the SW of the present-day outcrops.