THE County Council has been accused of not taking tourism seriously after a businessman in Allihies witnessed tourists being turned away from the country's only cable car.
Jerry Slattery said he was one of a group of 40 people standing in line to visit Dursey Island off the Beara Peninsula at 9am on Monday, July 24th and that he was one of the lucky ones who made it onto the island.
He said no one objects to standing in line, or taking their turn on the cable car because it can only hold between six and eight people at any one time.
But he said problems are arising because the service is not operating at full capacity and, while waiting for more than an hour to return to the mainland, he said he saw between 30 and 40 cars turning back after checking the cable car schedule â which now includes a break in the service between the hours of 11am and 2.30pm.
Last year, he said, the service ran full time and that encouraged a local from the mainland to set up a coffee shop on the island, and another person to run a minibus service to take people on tours â all of which provided employment.
He said these people are not doing it this year because the cable car is not running at full capacity.
Mr Slattery argued: âThis tourist facility is unique to the area, yet Cork County Council is not taking it seriously. Could you imagine Muckross House only opening for a couple of hours every day?'
Mr Slattery said the situation was âa joke,' considering the number of times that FÃ¡ilte Ireland uses the cable car to publicise the Wild Atlantic Way.
The businessman said local people have some chance of knowing the operating times and planning their visit, but the people who turned up on July 24th were primarily Germany, American and British and had travelled from as far as Killarney, Kenmare and Bantry â all over an hour's journey to the Beara Peninsula.
Mr Slattery pointed out that the cable car operator was most helpful and most apologetic to the hundreds of people who were disappointed not to be able to make the journey across to the island. And he suggested: âCork County Council, along with all public representatives for the area, should hang their heads in shame for running this facility in such a haphazard way.'
Mac Dara O h-IcÃ, a senior executive officer with Cork County Council, explained that the cable car was put in 50 years ago to facilitate residents on the island and that it is only since the rise in popularity of the Wild Atlantic Way that demand for the service has doubled.
He acknowledged that capacity is an issue but said the local authority is seeking to resolve that by applying for a major capital grant to develop the service, as well as recruiting four new employees.
âWe realise it is an important attraction in the Beara area,' Mr O h-IcÃ added, âwe have seen the user numbers increase from 8,000 in 2014 to 13,000 in 2016.'
As soon as the new employees are in place, he said the service would go from operating on a winter schedule to a much more inclusive summer schedule.