A NORTH Clare councillor has been sharply critical of the decision by Fáilte Ireland not to erect Wild Atlantic Way signage in Miltown Malbay.
Councillor Róisín Garvey told the June meeting of the West Clare Municipal District that sometimes local authority members knew better than Fáilte Ireland when it came to tourism development projects. In response to the Green Party member calling for Miltown, “the real gateway to West Clare” to be put on the route, using new signage, the tourism authority said it had no plans to do so. A written reply to Councillor Garvey’s motion from Miriam Kennedy, Head of the Wild Atlantic Way, said it was felt that Miltown was already part of the destination marketing plan.
“Being on or adjacent to the Wild Atlantic Way,” Ms Kennedy said, “offers destinations an opportunity to influence the visitor’s travel patterns as they navigate along the route and given Miltown Malbay’s immediate proximity to the route, it is considered by Fáilte Ireland to already be part of the Wild Atlantic Way. A sign pointing to a village does not influence this. What motivates a visitor to stop and linger are things to see and do which influences their dwell time.”
Reacting, Councillor Garvey said, “I completely reject this response. Is she suggesting Miltown doesn’t want signage? There is no way they turned it down. I’ve had several Zoom and face-to-face meetings with people in the town. Miltown is the gateway on the Wild Atlantic Way and it is appalling that it is being left out. I would put up the signs myself, if I had to. Miltown has lost out on the year’s Willie Clancy Summer School and now they have been shafted again. I would like to challenge this response. Miltown is on its knees with businesses not re-opening. The current signage actually diverts people away from Miltown, if they’re travelling the Wild Atlantic Way.”
Councillor Gabriel Keating said he was supportive of Councillor Garvey’s motion. He noted that Lisdoonvarna had sought to get designation as a spur along the Wild Atlantic Way and that this might be the solution for Miltown.
Councillor Ian Lynch said he agreed with Councillor Garvey, but that it could be difficult to get a derogation from Fáilte Ireland’s guidelines.
Noting that the response from Fáilte Ireland referred to the forthcoming development of a West Clare/North Kerry Visitor Engagement Development Plan (VEDP), that will include Miltown Malbay, Councillor Shane Talty said he could see “a glimmer of light”. The VEDP, which will involve Project Officer Siobhán King engaging with stakeholders in Clare, is tipped by Fáilte Ireland to see “considerable investment” and ensure the wider area is benefitting as best it can from the Wild Atlantic Way. “This could be the start of something,” Councillor Talty said.
Councillor Joe Killeen said he was supportive of the motion and would like to see a boost for Lisdoonvarna also.
“Sometimes we know better than Fáilte Ireland,” Councillor Garvey asserted. “In the past, greenways have bypassed local schools. These things can’t just be tourist amenities. Miltown needs a resurrection.”
Acting Senior Executive Engineer John O’Malley said the development to the VEDP would involve engagement with stakeholders in Miltown and that the council would be seeking funding for tourism projects. “We will work closely with Fáilte Ireland to develop this,” he said.