Sign of the times: How one Munster business community is fighting back

The efforts towns such as Killarney are making to ensure business returns
Sign of the times: How one Munster business community is fighting back
Killarney Rotary Club launched its awareness project advising locals and tourists to wear masks. From left, president Anne Alcock, Paul Sherry, Ciara Irwin-Foley, Mike Stack, Angela O'Connor, Bayle Tadinatova, Grace O'Neill, Barry Murphy, and Eduard Schmidt-Zorner. Picture: Don MacMonagle

IF the pandemic has taught us anything it’s how in these times, staying connected yet apart matters — and one Munster town is highlighting this message.

Ireland’s tourism capital, Killarney, has faced significant challenges since March but the local authority, as well as business and community organisations, are uniting to fight back.

You'll see the battle lines against coronavirus drawn in the streetscape, which has been transformed in recent weeks as safety measures were put in place. Kerry County Council developed interim mobility plans for 22 towns and villages in the county to ensure public health advice can be adhered to as Covid-19 restrictions ease and premises continue to reopen. 

“Kerry County Council has taken these steps in the interests of protecting members of the public as business and increased footfall returns in our towns and villages,” said Owen O'Shea of Kerry County Council.

Measures to restrict car parking and create 'safe streets' for pedestrians have been implemented in Killarney. Picture: Don MacMonagle
Measures to restrict car parking and create 'safe streets' for pedestrians have been implemented in Killarney. Picture: Don MacMonagle

“The plans are therefore intended to be effective ways of ensuring that social distancing can be maintained, as is reasonable and practical while ensuring that businesses can resume trading and provide their goods and services to customers,” said Mr O’Shea.

In relation to Killarney specifically, the plan incorporates traffic re-routing measures and changes to car-parking provisions as well as the re-purposing of sections of road space to prioritise pedestrians to enable them to walk safely while still maintaining social distancing. “Many of these temporary measures are functional in their appearance but the council is working to enhance them where possible,“ added Mr O’Shea.

A number of 15-minute set-down free parking spaces are being provided at locations around the town to facilitate quick drop-off and pick-up from businesses. In addition, age-friendly parking spaces will be provided to enable older and more vulnerable members of the public to park in close proximity to the town centre. Free parking is being provided in the new Rock Road car park from 9am-12 pm daily and a number of new loading bays have been added.

Signs for safe queuing outside Killarney Plaza Hotel, Killarney. Measures to restrict car parking and create 'safe streets' have been implemented by the council to allow people to walk safely while still maintaining social distancing. Picture: Don MacMonagle
Signs for safe queuing outside Killarney Plaza Hotel, Killarney. Measures to restrict car parking and create 'safe streets' have been implemented by the council to allow people to walk safely while still maintaining social distancing. Picture: Don MacMonagle

The provision of emergency measures followed detailed safety assessments by the council’s Covid-19 project team and were published last month. “Whereas the rollout of provisions such as this are a function of the executive of the council, the council invited comments and submissions on the plans from the public,” said Mr O’Shea. 

“There was significant on-the-ground engagement with local businesses, local councillors were briefed in detail on the plans on a number of occasions, and some minor adjustments were made to the plans accordingly.”

Killarney Rotary Club has joined forces with the council and Killarney Chamber of Tourism & Commerce to raise awareness of the importance of mask-wearing in a further effort to see visitors return. Rotary Club member Ciara Irwin Foley came up with the idea of erecting signs at approach roads to the town with the words “Killarney wears masks”. 

Within days, the signs were in place and posters were on retail outlets' windows. “We welcome a lot of visitors to our town, and our club is united in wishing to protect visitors’ safety and well-being as well as that of our local community,” said newly elected Killarney Rotary president Anne Alcock. 

Killarney Chamber of Tourism & Commerce President Paul Sherry said: “Any initiative that helps to prevent the spread of the virus ties in nicely with Kerry County Council’s campaign to promote Killarney and the wider County as a ‘safe destination’ to visit, live and work.”

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