A €21M investment in the fishing industry in Castletownbere could be the key to unlocking the town’s long term potential, according to John Nolan, the manager of the Castletownbere Fisherman’s Co-operative.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, confirmed last Friday that €20m will be spent on doubling the size of the fishing pier at Dinish Island to 400 metres – a project that is expected to go for planning permission in the New Year and could result in the creation of between 30 to 40 jobs over the next two years.
But it is the decision to knock an old auction hall at the quayside in Castletownbere that could have the potential to open up the town centre as an amenity and give Cork County Council a solution to the town’s ongoing traffic congestion problem.
According to John Nolan, the new harbour development package includes the sum of €1m to build an iconic new harbour administration centre in Castletownbere – a facility that would also house the Harbour Master and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority.
He said that when completed, it would have the potential to create a new seaside amenity area, a new parking area, and possibly provide a by-pass route for the highly congested town.
Minister Creed described the investment as being ‘consistent with this Government’s strategy in developing infrastructure and job creating capacity in rural and Coastal communities.
‘Once completed,’ he said, ‘this state-of-the-art facility will further enhance Castletownbere’s capacity as a strategic location in terms of fishing and seafood processing.’
John Nolan said: ‘Any investment in a community has to be welcomed, but the Government’s decision to spend €21m is great news for Castletownbere, especially as it follows Open Eir’s work in bringing high speed broadband to Castletownbere, and the further announcement, last Friday, that Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) is to invest €500,000 in the area.’
BIM CEO Tara McCarthy confirmed that €200,000 will be spent on a new fire training facility on Dinish Island, which will be a valuable training asset to the National Fisheries College in Castletownbere, and a further €300,000 on refurbishing BIM’s ice plant and fitting it with a new 15 tonne and 10 tonne machine.
Mr Nolan said: ‘It is good to see BIM reinvesting in the community because the ice plant has been run down for many years and the latest investment will bring it back up to standard.
‘Long term,’ Mr Nolan said, ‘the idea is to make the pier in Castletownbere a tourist attraction and to make the pier at Dinish Island an industrial estate.’
Mr Nolan confirmed that Castletownbere has always been the biggest fishing port in terms of white fish landing, but in the last two years it has earned the distinction of becoming the biggest fishing port in the country in terms of the total value of landings there.
But he maintained that the latest round of investment could lead to even further development.
He told The Southern Star: ‘We hope that the investment will attract other industries – such as the oil exploration business, which is working in the Porcupine Bank 150 miles west of Castletownbere – who could use the town as a base.’