Skibb stall-holders vow to fight any changes to farmers' market rules

December 13th, 2016 7:10 AM

By Jackie Keogh

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MARKET traders in Skibbereen have called on Cork County Council to re-think the introduction of new rules, claiming that will alter what is ‘already a successful formula’.

An online petition set up by Madeline McKeever of Brown Envelope Seeds is being widely supported by the 100-plus stallholders at Skibbereen Market and members of the community.

Since it was set up on Wednesday, November 30th, it has attracted over 2,000 signatures, but members of Cork County Council claim there is no need for undue worry.

The online petition claims the Council’s bye-laws would ‘fundamentally change the market’ and add another layer of bureaucracy for already registered traders.

It also claims that the new bye-laws could restrict, or alter, the way the market is run. 

Concerns have also been expressed that the bye-laws would result in a change of location, a restriction of the number of stalls and traders, and new rules regarding trading – an approach that the petition describes as ‘a level of micro-managing that is unprecedented’.

One local trader, April Danann of Rebel Foods, told The Southern Star: ‘There is no need for this bureaucratic approach. It would be a better idea for the Council to consult with the markets to arrive at sensible and workable rules.’

When the subject was discussed at a meeting of the Western Committee of Cork County Council in Dunmanway recently, each of the councillors expressed concern that the situation is being misrepresented.

Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said: ‘The angle that is going out is that Cork County Council is putting in place very strict from what we are discussing here.

‘These bye-laws are only at discussion stage and people can put in a submission which would be considered. It is important that we get the truth out.’

Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) said: ‘There is a lot of scaremongering. We went through that in Skibbereen Town Council. These markets are great, but they still need to be regulated to make them better for everyone. That is what is going on. There is no actual threat to the market. What is going out is wrong.’

Cllr Mary Hegarty (FG) agreed that markets ‘play a huge role in tourism’ and are an important amenity for locals and visitors alike.

A senior executive officer with Cork County Council, Mac Dara O h-Icí, said people would have an opportunity to make a submission regarding the draft bye-laws as part of a public consultation process.

He acknowledged that the Council is ‘tasked with regulating markets to make them safe for the public, better for traders, and better for traders in the town as well’.

Mr O h-Icí said he was aware of the fact that there are a lot of food producers who started out in the markets of West Cork, and the important role they play in West Cork communities.

But April Danann said: ‘Our bottom line is that Skibbereen Market isn’t broken or in need of fixing.

 We have a well-run, independent farmers’ market at the heart of food tourism and we will strive to protect it.’

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