By Leo McMahon
‘THINGS aren’t too bad as long as we have communities like yours,’ said Cork county manager, Martin Riordan, when officially launching ‘Courtmacsherry and Barryroe Gathering 2013’ recently in the Pier House before a large attendance representing the many organisations involved.
Mr Riordan said he received a desk full of invitations but welcomed the opportunity of leaving the ‘ivory tower’ of County Hall to visit Courtmacsherry and supporting a community-led initiative reflecting positivity and energy which in turn energised himself.
A member himself of the county steering group, he said ‘The Gathering’ was born out of the Global Economic Forum to invigorate tourism and attract an extra 300,000 visitors to Ireland because tourism was the fastest way to stimulate economic recovery. Co Cork was to the fore with 280 events pledged to date from Allihies to Youghal, including Rebel Week in October, and he urged the Barryroe group to make sure all its events were listed and hopefully were repeated in 2014 and beyond.
The manager also stated that the council was mindful of trying to maintain basic infrastructure such as roads for visitors and locals alike and it repeatedly impressed on the Ministers for Tourism and Transport the need to invest in this. The council would do all it could to assist ‘The Gathering’ and said he hoped to attend the regatta in the summer in what was ‘a beautiful spot, a real gem of West Cork’ looked after so well by its people.
Welcoming guests, steering committee chairman John O’Brien said the support of ‘The Gathering’ was most encouraging and referred to the established and new events on the 2013 programme of which the highlight would be the Regatta Festival organised by Courtmacsherry Development and Festival Association, which is currently undertaking a refurbishment of the community centre. Such social, cultural and sporting events would further boost the local economy which was so dependent on tourism in a locality of scenic beauty and were there to be enjoyed.
There was, he continued, a proud history of co-operation and the ethos of ‘meitheal’ and ‘gathering’ was demonstrated by a number of organisations and projects. In that regard he mentioned as examples, the Lifeboat, the GAA, Barryroe Co-op, the Seven Heads Walk, the harbour festival and Barryroe Show and especially recalled the huge success of the community in hosting the 2012 All-Ireland Coastal Rowing Championships at Broad Strand.
Deputy County Mayor and local councillor John O’Sullivan thanked the county manager for attending.
‘The Gathering’ was initiated to bring the Irish diaspora back to its roots to enhance the tourism product but also to spread the influence of Ireland in the countries of its emigrants. For that to be successful, there had to be something to bring the people back and the programme being launched did just that throughout 2013.
‘The Gathering is a big tourism driver. We can’t guarantee the sun, but the hospitality, the friendship and the camaraderie can be assured in all the events and I want to compliment the committee for launching these. It says a lot about the area that one parish can put on around 28 events for the year.’
A person he spoke to from Tipperary, said Cllr O’Sullivan, told him that if he could organise a visit to the Timoleague and Barryroe area and show them what could be done, this country wouldn’t be in the trouble it’s in because the get-up-and-go, the enthusiasm and progressiveness was something to behold.
Chairman of the Development Association, Stephen Finn said the continuation of the regatta, now incorporated into the ten-day harbour festival with the slogan ‘the friendly festival with something for all the family,’ proudly carried on an event steeped in the heritage of the village where friends, old and new, met at holiday time. He too wished ‘The Gathering’ every success and also took the opportunity to thank the county council for its support over the years, most notably with the refurbishment work at the community hall.
Former Failte Ireland officer for West Cork, Michael Manning said the wide-ranging and impressive line-up of events to date was remarkable for a relatively small community. ‘There’s a certain vibrancy about this area and the concept of ‘The Gathering’ is a great initiative and the response in Courtmacsherry and Barryroe is extraordinary and deserves the fullest support. The success of the locality of linking agriculture, food production and tourism is an example for the rest of the country.
‘Organisation is no problem here. There’s a great ability by the people to harness the resources and we see it tonight in the programme.’
The county manager was presented with the first framed copy of a map of the locality incporating a script to mark ‘The Gathering’ which will also be available for the year along with RNLI commemorative t-shirts.
Steering committee members are John O’Brien, Dave O’Reilly, John Young, John Murphy, John Sexton and Padraig Fleming. Ideas for further events are still welcome, phone 087 2363530. Excellent fare from Travara Lodge and John and Breda Young of Pier House was served at the launch.<
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