By Martin Walsh
THERE are now strong fears that the majority of the Seven Heads peninsula will not be included in the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW), despite claims more than two years ago, that it had been given the go-ahead.
Concerns were raised at an information meeting in Butlerstown last week that the WAW might only extend to Courtmacsherry village.
In September 2017, a local lobby group said it had gained a commitment from the WAW that the peninsula would be included, after locals had ferried visiting tourism minister Brendan Griffin around the area.
Welcoming the news at the time, Cllr John O’Sullivan thanked Minister Griffin, and also local junior minister Jim Daly for their support, along with MEP Deirdre Clune and Senator Tim Lombard.
The narrow roads in the area had earlier been cited by WAW then-manager Fiona Monaghan as a hindrance to the inclusion of the peninsula in the popular touring route.
But, at the time of the announcement she told The Southern Star: ‘We had a very constructive meeting (with the group) and made really good progress.’
But this week Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin said it appeared Fáilte Ireland was now ‘reneging on a solemn commitment given to a local community’. He added: ‘The Seven Heads is the key to all of this with its spectacular scenery and beautiful beaches. Certainly, I will be taking it up with Minister Griffin and others. The Seven Heads is one of the most unspoiled areas and it baffles me why it’s not on the WAW.’
The lobby group is adamant its application to be part of the WAW ‘ticks all the boxes’. The meeting last week was told about the need to galvanise the local business community as the application is now at a ‘critical juncture’, with the route review process by consultants RPS nearing completion.
Asked if the ‘forgotten’ peninsula will be included in the WAW, a spokesperson for Fáilte Ireland said the proposal, submitted last December, is ‘currently being reviewed’ and, following recommendations, a decision will be made with the local authorities ‘in the coming months’.
The meeting was told that the application has the full support of Cork County Council. The group’s chairperson Barry Holland stated that they have a direct link to Minister Brendan Griffin through Cllr John O’Sullivan.
Following the meeting, Cllr O’Sullivan told The Southern Star ‘I think everything is lined up at this stage, we have the minister on board, Fáilte Ireland are committed to us, the presentation is strong, so I would be confident we will get there.’
On the possibility of the WAW only extending to Courtmacsherry, Cllr O’Sullivan said: ‘The talk of the “brown” route initially was because the review was to take place earlier and we wouldn’t have the work done.
‘We have the work done now, and we will go for the whole hog, as far as I am concerned. That is what we are looking for.’