Fears over tour group rules at English Market

Concerns have been raised about the impact of new tour group protocols which are due to come into effect today in Cork’s famous English Market.

City councillors have called for a full briefing on the controls amid concerns they could cause embarrassment to large, independent visiting groups.

Fianna Fáil councillor Tim Brosnan raised the issue during Monday’s council meeting after the Irish Examiner last week reported the planned introduction of the new measures in Ireland’s oldest indoor food market. 

He said that while he appreciates the need for the protocols in the city council-owned market, councillors should have been briefed first.

However, historian and councillor Kieran McCarthy said he has concerns about the move.

Aramark Property, the company which runs the market on behalf of the council, has introduced a registration system from today for tour operators who wish to bring groups through the busy food market.

From this morning, large tour groups will have to book a market visit, and tour group sizes will be capped at eight people at a time. 

School groups will also be required to book in advance, with visits restricted to before 10.30am on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.

The protocols have been prepared in response to a significant increase in tourist numbers to the market in the wake of the visit by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth in 2011.

Pat O’Connell, chairman of the English Market Traders’ Committee, said last week that the surge in visitor numbers has led to overcrowding at certain times, and raised potential health and safety issues.

“If we continue as we are and with the tourist numbers continuing to rise, the day-to-day running of the market will be affected and the livelihood of traders could be in jeopardy,” he said. 

“We looked at how similar organisations worldwide operate in order to accommodate large numbers and I have no doubt these simple measures will make a huge difference and help us to preserve what the English Market is all about. A more organised environment will benefit everyone.”

However, Mr McCarthy, who leads walking tours of the city, including a stop in the market, described the introduction of the protocols as a “very worrying trend”.

“It needs to go to a proper discussion through the city council,” he said. 

“It is very difficult to control ad-hoc large groups that arrive in Cork every day; the market would need very public contact points at its entrances to avoid any embarrassment to both traders and tourists.”

Mr McCarthy also called for talks on the shelved proposal for a food innovation hub in the adjoining Capitol retail project, and on plans to develop the Unitarian Church as a tourist centre.

“Both projects need to be resurrected if the plan is to bar large groups of tourists from the English Market,” he said.

Aramark Property’s Órla Lannin, manager of the English Market, said there has been a broadly positive reaction to the new protocols but she said it will be May before large tour groups begin visiting the market on a daily basis under the new control measures. 

She hopes the new measures will deliver benefits to everyone shopping in, or visiting the market where up to 400 people work in its 46 separate businesses.

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