BY JACKIE KEOGH
FÃILTE Ireland's failure to respond to a letter from the Seven Heads campaign group has provoked an angry response from public representatives.
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said the letter, which was sent to Fiona Monaghan, who is the head of the Wild Atlantic Way, on June 7th last, didn't even elicit a response.
The councillor was speaking at a meeting of the West Cork Municipal District in Skibbereen last week and he, together Cllr John O'Sullivan (FG), who is also from the Seven Heads Peninsula, called on the County Mayor, Declan Hurley (Ind) and the Municipal District chairman, Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) to support the campaign to have the Seven Heads included in the route for the Wild Atlantic Way.
Cllr O'Sullivan said it wasn't right that the Seven Heads was the only peninsula to be omitted, especially when one considers its scenic, maritime and tourism appeal.
Deirdre Cashman, who is the secretary of the campaign group, wrote to Ms Monaghan saying that the WAW is âdiverting tourists from our scenic area.'
In fact, Ms Cashman went so far as to describe the WAW as âa bypass for the Seven Heads peninsula with all the deleterious economic and social consequences for the area that that entails.'
Requesting a meeting with Ms Monaghan âas a matter of urgency,',Ms Cashman said the group wanted to impress upon her the fact that they are disappointed to be the only peninsula on the coast from the Old Head of Kinsale to Malin Head to be excluded in its entirety from the WAW route.
By excluding the Seven Heads, she said tourists are being deprived of a unique and compelling tourism project along a scenic route that has a rich maritime history and tradition.
During the discussion, Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) suggested that the new Local Link bus service from Kinsale to Clonakilty would facilitate the inclusion of the peninsula because the bus route will be âhugging the coastline.'
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) complained that FÃ¡ilte Ireland had âshunned' the Seven Heads communities and Cllr Joe Carroll described FÃ¡ilte Ireland's commitment to West Cork as âabysmal.'
The Southern Star contacted FÃ¡ilte Ireland for a comment. Head of communications, Alex Connolly, said: âWe didn't receive the original correspondence for whatever reason. But I understand we have received some registered correspondence on July 10th.'
Mr Connolly confirmed that FÃ¡ilte Ireland's local manager in Kerry has been in contact with the group and has been liaising with them with a view to setting up a meeting before the end of July.
Â The councillors then turned their attention to the fact that plans to double the capacity of the Dursey Island cable car as part of a FÃ¡ilte Ireland development scheme worth â¬65 million has only qualified for a â¬100,000 feasibility study.
Cork County Council submitted six proposals from all over the county â including a submission to double the capacity of the Dursey Island cable car and build a new visitor centre â for consideration under FÃ¡ilte Ireland's Tourism Investment Strategy 2016-2022.
The scheme is designed to develop capital projects that would enhance visitor experiences along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Cllr Carroll described the cable car as âone of the biggest attractions in West Cork and suggested: âIf it was in County Clare or anywhere else they would be pumping money into it.'
But Mac Dara O h-IcÃ of Cork County Council suggested that the councillors were possibly being too pessimistic. He said: âThis is a live application. FÃ¡ilte Ireland have approved the scheme to go to phase two for design and planning.'
Mr O hIcÃ also confirmed that the Council is looking to employ four cable car operators so that the service will be available 365 days a year.
The Council official said the local authority wanted the flexibility to extend the hours to later in the evening, as well as later in the season.
He also suggested that a recent survey of the use of the cable car, and the number of visitors to Dursey Island, would suggest that there was demand for a ferry service as well as the cable car.
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said extra staff and extra hours would go a long way to reducing the queues to visit the island, especially during the summer months.
Commenting on the cable car issue, Alex Connolly, head of communications with FÃ¡ilte Ireland issued a statement saying: âFÃ¡ilte Ireland received a large number of applications under its grant scheme. The most promising ones are now progressing to stage two, which involves a feasibility study. This is necessary given the large sums of taxpayers' money involved in these big capital schemes. The suggestion that a project in receipt of feasibility funding would not be supported would be misleading. All projects that are successful in stage one, must move to the stage two feasibility phase.'