LOOP HEAD tourism is to be the Clare representative in the Get Involved sustainable communities initiative, developed by 51 local newspapers, including The Clare Champion, throughout Ireland.
Get Involved is a way for communities to work together to improve their own lives, create local jobs and protect the environment. Local newspapers, with the support of the SEAI, help to drive voluntary sustainability projects, where citizens will collectively play a more pro-active, inclusive and coherent role in shaping the future of their local environs. The initiative brings clear benefits to the local economy and the
In 2015, Clare was represented by Moy Hill Community Farm near Lahinch. This year, Loop Head Tourism, which was established in late 2009, will represent the county. The group has 45 members, all of whom are tourism operators on the peninsula.
“There is a great Irish saying: Ní neart le cur le céile. We can go and market the place in a way that any one business can’t,” Loop Head Tourism chairman, Cillian Murphy, explained.
“Businesses are marketing Loop Head, so in a way we have stopped thinking about marketing individually. A rising tide lifts all boats. A lot of visitors don’t make any connection to a particular parish; they’re attracted to the Wild Atlantic Way. They don’t see the parish boundaries,” the committee chairman added.
Since the beginning of Get Involved in 2013, many communities have built the foundations for future projects and there is an expectation to see them back again this year for the next stages of their projects. Last year’s projects illustrated how enthusiastic and creative communities can be and, this year, there is €10,000 worth of bursaries available to winning projects.
Davie Philip of Cultivate, who has been a judge since the contest began, will act as catalyst in this year’s Get Involved contest. This role will involve working with the organisers to identify projects and mentor the entrants to build their capacity to have more impact in their community.
The Loop Head Peninsula is the most westerly point of Clare and incorporates Kilkee, Carrigaholt, Cross and Kilbaha, as well as Querrin and Doonaha.
The group was set up to ensure that the future development of the peninsula would happen in tandem with the wishes of those that lived there. The network’s ethos, which every business has to sign up to, states: ‘Loop Head Tourism is committed to promoting responsible and sustainable tourism development, while safeguarding the unique culture, heritage and biodiversity of the peninsula through co-operation with all stakeholders in the wider community’.
The group encourages all members to support each other, where possible. An example of this in practice is the logo on the menus of their food circle members, which signifies that all the principal ingredients come from local producers on the peninsula. It ensures the sustainability of small local farmers, fishermen and vegetable gardens and the group estimate that it has meant an increased direct spend to local producers of over €150,000, which may otherwise have gone outside of the locality.
“We have also been insistent from the start that the area would not be developed in any way for the mass market, such as tour bus operators. We have lobbied the council to ensure that there would be no road widening or passing bays placed along the coast to make coach access easier and, at the lighthouse, we insisted that the car parking facility would only accommodate car traffic. We have never subscribed to the principle that tourism should be developed for its own sake, rather it should be thought of as the output of a proper sustainable development plan for Loop Head.
“Loop Head Tourism is taking responsibility for that development plan by ensuring Loop Head is a better place to live in and by definition a better place to visit,” Mr Murphy explained.
By Peter O’Connell