Minutes of a meeting held at Casey's Hotel Glengariff - 18th September 2008 – 8:30pm
To discuss the campaign to restore the Swansea Cork Ferry
Donald Lynch – Chairman, Danny Healy-Rae mcc, Micheal Healy-Rae mcc, Tom Fleming – Mayor of Kerry, Noel Harrington – County Mayor of Cork, Micheal O'Connor Scarteen – mcc, John O'Shea – mcc, Patrick Murphy – mcc, Senator Denis O'Donovan, Senator Mark Daly, Danny Crowley mcc, Dermot Sheehan mcc,Pat O Shea mcc, Adrian Brentnall & Chris Taylor (Bring Back the Swansea Cork Ferry Campaign).
Donald Lynch thanked Danny McCarthy for setting up the meeting – and introduced the following :-
Noel Harrington – Cork County Mayor – who said that everybody present was aware of the dreadful impact of the loss of the ferry on the regions of Cork & Kerry. He said that he had been involved in meetings with the Mayors of Cork and Kerry, and the local authorities, as well as the Port of Cork. He stated that considerable incentives have been agreed by Port of Cork and Associated British Ports, and that a six-figure sum has been earmarked by Local Authorities and Failte Ireland for marketing the new ferry service. He reported that there are 'credible players' who want to run the new service, and that something definite should be in place within 4 – 5 weeks
Tom Fleming - Kerry Mayor – said that he had also bee involved in the same talks, and hoped that Noel's group could be the catalyst to bringing back this vital service – which is worth €35m per year to the region. He believed that there were two or three possible operators.
Michael Connor-Scarteen - Councillor said that he was completely behind the '3 Mayors' initiative – which had been making good progress so far. He reported that businesses in Killarney were reporting that their takings were down 70% on 2006 (the last year that the ferry was running)
Michael Healy-Rae – Councillor offered thanks for Danny McCarthy for arranging the meeting. Said that the loss of the ferry has been 'terrible hurtful' to tourism in Kerry. He agreeed that funding would be difficult – but said he was deeply committed to reinstating the ferry – and noted that arrangements must be in place within 6 weeks if the ferry is to run in 2009. In Cork & Kerry we have an excellent 'product' - 2nd to none – and it only needs the ferry to be reintroduced for tourists to be able to enjoy it again.
The Ex-Mayor of Co Cork 89/90 now TD) – said that he was involved in the same process in 89/90 when groups from Cork and Kerry teamed up with representatives from Swansea to bring about the reintroduction of the ferry service. It worked then and can work now, but there is a need for a 5-year Continuity Guarantee – to prevent a company from starting the service and then suddenly discontinuing it again.
Danny Crowley mcc said - There are difficulties with finance – particularly in the current economic climate. Good wishes are all very well – but Local Authorities need to make a financial commitment and put their money on the table.
Danny McCarthy said I felt I had to do something myself. 2008 has been a disastrous year for tourist businesses in Cork & Kerry – many of whom have invested some serious money into the industry. It's time that the people in the Dail put Cork & Kerry on the map for once – and offered some help in getting the ferry running again.
Mark Daly – It's true that Cork and Kerry can seem to be a long way from Dublin, and a plan is needed to resolve the ferry issue.
John O'Shea – Not one cent has been spent on West Cork, and while local hoteliers are paying business rates of €1,000 per month the tourist industry is getting nothing in return. The ferry problem is an infrastructure problem – and should be addressed by central government. Elglish-registered cars are few and far between this year.
Danny Healy-Rae – South Kerry and Cork are aligned on the issue – it's a 'huge loss', a 'savage loss' to the area.
Question from the floor – Where are the County Managers ? Why aren't they here ?
Noel Harrington answered that both County Managers have been involved in the discussions but unfortunately could not be present at this meeting. There is already a '6-figure commitment' from the two Counties, which has been matched by Failte Ireland – for marketing the restored service.
It will only come about through private enterprise – two options – either buy a ship outright (€24m) or a lease/purchase deal (€5m). Potential ships and operators have been identified – investors are needed – asked all to put the word out.
Dermot Sheehan – apologised on behalf of PJ Sheehan who could not make it to the meeting. Said it's almost exactly a year since he first tabled a motion at Cork County Council re the ferry – had been steadily working away since then but didn't want the issue to become 'Dermot's camapaign' or become 'party-political' He welcomed the work done by the bringbacktheswanseacorkferry.com campaign – said that we need a united plan of action, putting party politics aside.
Chris Taylor (bringbacktheswanseacorkferry.com campaign) likened the campaign's activities to a mosquito – 'we aim to be 'noticed' – and make people aware of the issues. Mentioned the figure of €100,000 of tourist business which came into Cork & Kerry with every docking of the ferry.
Adrian Brentnall (bringbacktheswanseacorkferry.com campaign) outlined the activities of the campaign to date – 2000+ signatures on the e-petition, 550 detailed responses on the user survey, over 10,000 visitors to the website in 5 months, and extensive publicity on local radio, press, websites and BBC South Wales. He distributed car-stickers and badges – and asked that everybody present do all they can to support the campaign, identify potential investors, lobby their elected representative and get the boat back in service for March 2009 at the latest.
Clare Thoma (South Kerry Development Partnership) pledged Leader's support for the ferry – and emphasised the need for a 5-year 'service guarantee' – to ensure that a reliable service is introduced.
Actions agreed -
1)That all at the meeting will support the work of the online campaign and petition at www.bringbacktheswanseacorkferry.com
2)The Healy-Rae brothers will approach Jackie Healy-Rae to form a deputation to approach minsters in the Dail.
3)That John McAleer of S.W. Regional Authority will be approached to see if he is prepared to assist in the coordination of the work
4)That all to meet again on Monday 29th September, 8:30pm to report progress.
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