A special forum is to be set up in West Cork aimed at boosting the region’s economic development, especially in terms of its agriculture, fishing and tourism industries.
Assistant county manager James Fogarty has given his full backing to the idea and said that Cork County Council will not be found wanting in helping to lead the initiative which was first suggested by Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG).
He said the region’s chances of attracting major start-up industries are slim and the only way to create jobs is to concentrate on enhancing existing industries such as agriculture, fishing, food and tourism.
“For example, because of the climate, we have 18 more growing days in West Cork compared to other parts of the country and that should be exploited more,” he said.
Cllr Pat Murphy (FF) said the region’s tourism potential hadn’t been marketed properly to date.
He said 90% of fish coming into Castletownbere was being exported and there was a huge opportunity to keep more of it here and add market value to it: “We can’t rely on the State agencies to do it for us.”
Mr O’Sullivan proposed that the council liaise with businesses throughout the region to ensure each parish, town and village had a blueprint for job creation.
“We must talk to the industries and see what opportunities there are which we can all develop on together,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
Cllr Adrian Healy (FG) said genealogy tourism could be developed. He said the manager of Skibbereen Heritage Centre said they have received around 1,000 inquiries a month from people all over the world since local cemetery records were put online: “There is so much value in this because it can eventually lead to people visiting an area to see where their ancestors are buried,” Mr Healy said.
Mr Fogarty said he would talk to UCC experts about compiling a report on what opportunities might be available to add value to fishing exports and create more jobs in the industry.
A joint initiative by the Port of Cork and Cork County Council to get more cruise line passengers to visit West Cork will reach a critical point next week when representatives from some of the world’s biggest luxury liner companies come to see what the region has to offer.
Assistant county manager James Fogarty said they will arrive next Monday for a three-day trip. “They will go to Timoleague, Clonakilty, Rosscarbery, Union Hall, Baltimore, Skibbereen, Bantry and Glengarriff,” Mr Fogarty said “may also do the Ring of Beara, visit Mizen Head and one of the islands.”
The visit is the culmination of months of hard work, which included local officials selling the region at a major cruise line exhibition in Hamburg.
“About 95,000 people came to Cobh on cruise ships this year. We want to get more of them to visit West Cork so we are devising shore packages for them. Around 10% of cruise ships visit Bantry annually and we want to improve that figure. We are particularly interested in getting the smaller ships which do explore and adventure trips to berth there and even visit the island,” Mr Fogarty said.
“We’re going to show them first hand the very best that West Cork has to offer. It’s a great opportunity to bring more money into the area and create jobs,” Cllr Mary Hegarty (FG), chairman of the council’s western division, said.
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