WEST Cork’s first co-operative shop in Courtmacsherry has been officially sanctioned.
Sinn Fein Cllr Paul Hayes has welcomed the decision by the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) to grant ‘Courtmacsherry Community Shop’ co-operative status and he called on people to support the initiative by purchasing co-op shares.
As the organisation’s assistant PRO, Cllr Hayes told The Southern Star that a committee of 12 set out an impressive proposal to the ICOS, which outlined their ambitions to create a community shop, tourist information hub, an exhibition area and a social outlet where members of the community could meet for a chat.
When ‘Rita’s’ shop closed in August 2015, Dara Gannon, the group’s PRO, said it left a deep void in the village because there had been a retail store of one kind or another in Courtmacsherry for the last 200 years, and Courtmacsherry has a rich tradition in commerce.
‘There had been a shop in the village since the O’Donovan’s first started one in the mid-1870s. And it once had its own boat builders, railway station, active port, music hall, cinema, petrol station, garage and well over a dozen other shops selling all sorts of produce and merchants dealing with everything from coal to animal feeds.’
When Rita’s closed, the people living in the village of Courtmacsherry and its hinterland – a population of over 500, a figure that doubles during the summer months – had no option but to travel to the nearest shops 5km away in Timoleague or Lislevane.
Dara told The Southern Star: ‘This is not an acceptable scenario for us, so to help combat the decline in services in our community, and also to combat the even bigger problem of rural isolation, a community shop was proposed.’
A public meeting was organised and the community came together with the intention of taking ‘the first step’ by carrying out a feasibility study on the viability of a community owned and operated shop.
The group took advice from the Plunkett Foundation, an organisation that has enjoyed a great deal of success setting up community shops in the UK, and conducted a survey of the residential homes within a mile of the village.
A staggering 96% of those surveyed said they were in favour of establishing a community shop and indicated that they would support it on a daily and weekly basis but that they’d also be willing to volunteer to run it.
The final draft of a brochure outlining all aspects of this initiative will be distributed throughout Courtmacsherry and its hinterland within the next two weeks. In the meantime you can find out more by checking out the group’s Facebook page at Courtmacsherry Community Shop.