The take-up of shares at a public meeting in West Cork this week will determine if the region’s first community shop can be established.
The meeting in Courtmacsherry will be an opportunity for people to buy shares in a proposed, new retail outlet in the village, at €50 a block.
“Until we sell enough shares to open the doors, we can’t open the doors,” said local man, Dara Gannon, a member of the organising committee.
“People are asked to come, to support us, and to invest in shares.
“We have spent the last two weeks distributing information about the shares, and how to buy them, to local residents of Courtmacsherry and the surrounding areas.”
He said there had also been significant interest from people who holidayed in the lifeboat village, and from people who had family connections to Courtmacsherry.
“I am sending a dozen emails a day to people who have requested information on how to purchase the shares.”
He expects a large turnout at the meeting, which will be a Q&A session, in the village’s community hall, on Wednesday, at 8.30pm.
All going well, it is hoped the new community shop will open in May, in a former post office.
The village has been without a retail outlet since the remaining shop closed last year.
The move comes as Ireland South MEP, Deirdre Clune, highlighted the closure of many shops in rural areas and small villages, as a result of price competition from large multiples and dwindling population bases.
She called for the establishment of government-led incentives to allow communities to reopen shops, pointing out that people in many small communities in rural Ireland now needed to travel long distances to buy basic necessities such as milk and bread.
“Older people in those small villages are often dependent on their neighbours to help them with groceries and basic necessities. It is time that we looked at a series of incentives to reopen them, but in the hands of the local community,” she said.
The model has worked well in the UK, where research showed that the long-term survival rate of a community shop was 96%. In 1994, there were just 27 community shops in the UK and, today, there are 316.
In Ireland, there are shops in Loughmore in Tipperary; Cloghane in West Kerry; and Fourmilehouse in Roscommon.
Ms Clune’s comments came as pressure mounts on an incoming government to create the post of minister for rural affairs.
The Fine Gael MEP said: “Community shops would give the village a focal point and help to ensure our smaller, rural villages don’t just become soulless, commuter hubs.
“The community themselves would be shareholders in the venture and they could then apply for assistance to meet any initial structural costs that may arise.
“Such ventures cement community spirit, and allow the village community to take ownership of their recovery and rally the local community. As local residents would, for the most part, be shareholders in the shop, they are more likely to support it,” she said.
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