23/1/10 Man behind Cork to Swansea ferry deal named person of year
By Sean O’Riordan - Irish Examiner
THE man who looks set to rejuvenate the tourist industry in the south-west region got a standing ovation yesterday when he received the Cork Person of the Year Award from President Mary McAleese.
Conor Buckley, chairman of West Cork Tourism, was the driving force behind the purchase of a ferry which will restart the Cork-Swansea route on March 1.
He joked that he had spent a lot of time in the last year away from his wife, Celine, trying to tie the deal down. He used to tell her when he returned home at night that he’d spent the day with a German called Julia – a big lady who weighed in at nearly 30,000 tonnes.
Ms Buckley need not have worried for the 28-year-old lady in question was the MV Julia, the ferry which will run under the flag of the Fastnet Line.
Mr Buckley said he felt humbled, like Barack Obama when he learned he’d won the Nobel Prize, because there were so many other deserving people who could have won it.
He praised the many others who had rowed in behind the project and raised the necessary money.
Mr Buckley said the region had lost an estimated €150 million since the Swansea Cork Ferry company ceased operations three years ago.
"As a tourism group we were suffering. We overcame our fear and suffering through courage," he added.
The year-round ferry service will create up to 1,000 jobs.
The awards lunch at the Fota Island Hotel was attended by 260 people from all sectors of Cork society to hear the decision of the judges, city manager Joe Gavin and county manager Martin Riordan.
Mrs McAleese said she was heartened to see such a cross-section of monthly award winners which included schoolboys John D O’Callaghan and Liam McCarthy who won the Irish and European Young Scientists awards last year.
Ireland rugby coach Declan Kidney had been installed as favourite to win the award having steered the national team to an unbeaten season which included a Grand Slam, Triple Crown and the scalp of World Champions South Africa.
Representatives of the event sponsors also spoke at the ceremony.
They included Aidan Forde, head of advertising at the Irish Examiner; Clare Duignan, managing director, RTÉ radio; John O’Flynn, general manager Fota Island Hotel and Manus O’Callaghan of Southern Advertising.