By Martin Walsh
THE Courtmacsherry community shop, that opened in June 2016 to help reinvigorate the seaside village, and received a Cork County Council community award last year, has recently been recognised by Flag (Fishing Local Area Groups), a BIM-administered group co-funded under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
Flag is a coastal community development strategy with a fund of €12m designated for seven Irish coastal communities. Courtmacshery is in the Flag South region.
Earlier this month at a conference in the Westlodge Hotel in Bantry, delegates from the EU countries voted the Courtmacsherry community shop as the best ‘smart business’ idea.
Indeed, the concept, the first of its kind in the region, could become the blueprint, not just for other Irish villages but across the European Union, as local Mark Gannon explains. ‘We have been asked by the Flag South to put a booklet together to enable communities in other countries in the EU to give them a manual as to how to set up a community shop,’ he said.
Mark added: ‘Yes, it’s great that our endeavours in running a community shop are being rewarded. We have a great team of volunteers and they are unwavering in the support. Last year we decided to put the profits back into community and this is driving on the whole community project. In addition, the support we get from tourism is great.’
It’s very evident that the community shop has breathed new life into the village. ‘Being here with the customers, we know them all and it is their shop as well, it’s a beautiful social hub,’ said volunteer Sheila Desmond.
Belfast-born Pauline Pollard also stands behind the counter. ‘I feel I am really part of the community here, I love it.’ Anne Holly believes it is ‘one of the best examples of community we have here in Courtmacsherry.’
Philip White concluded: ‘When you get the expressions of interest from other communities it makes you very confident and happy in that what you have done is working.’
In January 2016, a local survey found that 96% of the community wanted the community shop. The village had lost it last remaining shop just the year before.