Volunteer workers bid to have their say on future of harbour fort

Volunteers who have been at the forefront in promoting a famed harbour fort as a major tourist attraction are seeking to have a say in its future.

Cork Harbour’s Camden Fort Meagher played a significant role in Irish history, during the Siege of Kinsale in 1601 and in the conflict in 1690 between the Catholic King James II and Protestant William of Orange.

Built close to Crosshaven, Camden was one of several magnificent forts constructed to defend the mouth of Cork Harbour.

Over the centuries, the fortification has been utilised by British armies and the Irish Defence Forces.

Since 2010, volunteers have helped turn the fort into a tourist attraction.

The group involved is now seeking representation on an advisory board being set up by Cork County Council.

Camden Fort Meagher volunteers have been working on maintaining the fort, with some of the 45 volunteers occasionally working up to 25 hours a week on cleaning the structure — not just when the fort is open to the public in the summer.

They also carry out maintenance works in the winter.

A deputation from the group expressed concerns about future plans for the fort at a meeting of the Bandon/Kinsale Municipal District Council.

Noel Condon, chairman of the group and a community activist, told councillors the volunteers were concerned they would not have a voice in future, about improvements planned for the fort.

The county council is seeking a tender for consultants to draw up a master plan for the fort’s future use and intends to set up an advisory board.

Mr Condon said he hoped that he and his volunteers would have an input into the master plan, and would also have representation on the advisory board.

“We’d like to have three or four people involved in the advisory board, including those from the Camden Rescue Group,” said Mr Condon.

“We do not want to be ignored, we have put too much into the fort and we deserve to be included in the process.”

The fort opens to the public from May to September and each year visitor numbers are rising. After more than 20 years of closure and neglect, the fort now welcomes on average 1,000 visitors each open weekend.

Mr Condon said his volunteers wished to acknowledge that the council had put a lot of money into the project to date. But he also noted the local authority had invested significantly more funding at Spike Island.

Plans are afoot for a new maritime tourism experience linking the harbour’s forts by ferry tours.

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