Southern Star Ltd. logo

More power to the local people

April 18th, 2023 11:40 AM

By Southern Star Team

More power to the local people Image

Share this article

PEOPLE Power has resulted in some great victories for locals in recent years in West Cork.

In the last two years alone, many groups of concerned residents have banded together to shout and fight for what they felt was right.

They include the successful campaign to reverse CoAction’s plan to change the use of a building in Bantry; the public outcry over a proposed 23-hectare oyster farm for Ring in Clonakilty which saw it rejected eventually, and a victorious campaign to force the reopening of Bantry General Hospital’s acute medical assessment unit.

And, of course, one of the most prominent examples when, during one week in September 2021, two major environmental campaigns in West Cork – run primarily by small community-based pressure groups – achieved success in their respective court challenges in Dublin.

The first, the Save Our Skibbereen (SOS) campaign, saw the quashing of a decision by An Bord Pleanála (ABP) to grant permission for a plastics factory in the town.

This was just hours after the group campaigning against the mechanical harvesting of kelp in Bantry Bay were told by another High Court judge that a licence issued for the seaweed harvesting was, in effect, incomplete.

Taken together, all these examples – and there are more – put paid to the theory that the ‘common man’ (or woman) has no real power in the face of large corporations or, indeed, the State itself.

While there are plenty of instances of the regular citizen being intimidated into submission by various organs of the State and many private corporations, when ‘one’ becomes ‘many’, there is often a different outcome.

The viewer cannot have anything but admiration for the group of local people who have been campaigning very publicly for the past fortnight about the planned closure of their beloved pier in Keelbeg.

The village of Union Hall which, in 2016, had a population of well under 300, has garnered publicity in all media across the south, with their determination not to let their pier be closed off for their use.

Two weeks ago, over 200 people met at the pier for a photograph which graced the front page of our paper last week. A few days later a still significant number of Union Hall-ers gathered outside the County Council-operated Skibbereen Library, again flanked by many ‘Save our Pier’ banners and signs.

This week the same determined crew took their fight to the County Hall during the monthly meeting of the Council. The Council may be defiant, but one gets the impression this fight is far from over.

Their little pier – not the main Keelbeg pier, but a smaller one dating back to 1895 – is not to be messed with, the locals have said. 

A local authority meeting last week heard that while an engineer’s report, presented to the members three years ago, said the pier was structurally in a ‘poor condition’, there was no conclusive evidence given that it was either structurally unsound or dangerous.

Therefore, the locals fear their much-used facility is going the way of so many others in this country – falling victim to a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach by its operators.

How many great facilities have closed in recent years because of a fear of safety-related litigation? Even our playgrounds and beaches have fallen foul of an overly-cautious approach where the ‘if in doubt, leave it out’ policy takes priority over facilities, venues and locations that have been an integral part of our society for generations.

We are seeing something similar happen in Kinsale this week, as Brendan Piper says that the Council will not entertain any suggestions to get his much-loved Piper’s funfair back in operation in the town.

The Council wants a bond of €60,000 up front, for fear the newly-resurfaced car park on Pier Road may get damaged by the fair’s installation.

We are seeing newly-repaired roads being damaged by other State utilities all over the county, with very little being said, and yet when a local businessman tries to bring cheer to the people of our crisis-ridden country, he encounters roadblocks at every turn.

It is a sad state of affairs when the ‘what ifs’ of the world take precedence over the reality that with everything in life, there is risk.

By legislating ourselves out of every risk, we are often legislating ourselves out of the very things that make life worth living.

We need more Union Hall-ers, more local groups getting together to shout stop.

Without them, we may as well tie up every pier, shut down every funfair, and eliminate anything that has the word ‘risk’ attached.

Tags used in this article

Share this article