Courtmacsherry fights loss of of rural services with first co-op shop

A lifeboat village battling the loss of rural services has plans to launch the first community shop of its kind in West Cork early next summer.

Courtmacsherry fights loss of of rural services with first co-op shop

A survey of several hundred residents in and around the village of Courtmacsherry has revealed 95% support for the initiative.

Funding and mentoring support has already been pledged by the West Cork Development Partnership under its 2016 Spring Programme.

It is expected that the new store will open in the village next May.

A delegation of local people from Courtmacsherry are in discussions with the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) with a view to securing the official go-ahead for the establishment of a co-operative community shop, wholly-owned by the local community.

“One of the other really good things to come out of the survey is that about 30% of the people who responded also volunteered to engage in either helping to set up the shop, or helping in the ongoing operation,” said Dara Gannon, a local man whose family has lived in the village for 50 years.

The popular tourist spot once boasted its own railway station, dance-hall, cinema, petrol station, and some 17 shops.

The village’s single remaining shop closed last summer — an event which was viewed with much dismay by villagers such as father-of-two Mr Gannon and his brother Mark, who runs an angling business in the village.

Mark Gannon initially researched the concept of a community shop — which is popular in the UK — and the idea was greeted with enthusiasm by Courtmacsherry locals.

When it opens next year, the store will be owned and operated by the community and will sell local produce such as fresh fish and bakery products as well as the work of local craftspeople.

Organisers feel the shop could double as a tourism information point and exhibition showcase, providing information on cultural and historical events and activities locally such as the Seven Heads Walk, the Historical Society, and the Butlerstown Heritage Group, and acting as a venue for exhibitions such as the Lusitania or explorer Patrick Keohane exhibitions.

Mr Gannon, an executive with General Electric, said a delegation of local people was in talks with ICOS to discuss the village’s application for approval of the proposed venture.

“Once we get permission to operate as a co-op, we can start to offer shares to the community,” he said.

“This is being done in conjunction with the West Cork Development Partnership under its Spring Programme 2016.

“We will be receiving financial aid to help us start the project, as well as the operational and development expertise which would be crucial for the long-term sustainability of the shop.”

For many in Courtmacsherry, losing the local shop, which sold everything from bread and milk to locally produced arts and crafts, and which acted as a meeting place for adults and children alike, was the final nail in the coffin for the village.

The nearest shops are 5km away in neighbouring villages Barryroe and Timoleague.

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