A CLARE team with a difference, with an inspirational leader at the helm, took London by storm this week.
World-renowned former Ireland and Lions rugby star, Keith Wood brought his 40-strong Clare squad to London in a bid to get the county’s UK diaspora more involved in promoting tourism in the Banner County.
The Killaloe man, who is now a highly regarded BBC TV rugby analyst, was the centre of attention at the London to Clare evening, where the best of Clare’s cultural, culinary, artistic, tourism and festival attractions were highlighted. It slots neatly into a broader campaign to trigger a resurgence in the West of Ireland economy.
More than 250 Clare people, who are living in London and other parts of the UK, supported the event in Copthorne Tara Hotel in Kensington. It is believed Clare is the first county in Ireland to harness the good will of its UK diaspora in promoting tourism in this fashion.
Keith spelled out the importance of strengthening ties with fellow Clare people in London and the UK, particularly in a time of national and global crisis. He also extended his appreciation for the “absolute generosity” they have shown in effectively becoming tourism ambassadors for the county.
“It’s time to think outside the box,” he said, “and time for us in Clare to lead the way and take responsibility for creating a county that is spirited, creative and productive, not just for us, but for the generations of the future.”
The London to Clare evening, which marked the commencement of a highly active period of engagement with the diaspora, is expected to generate €1 million and 2,000 tourists. It will also tie in with the Government-backed The Gathering homecoming initiative in 2013.
Explaining how the €1m potential revenue is arrived at, Joe Russell, chairman of Clare Tourism Forum, which inspired the London to Clare evening, said, “If 200 people attending the UK event could send 10 people to Clare, who would spend €500 each, it is not at all an impossible task to deliver this target.”
Mayor of Clare, Pat Hayes, who attended the event, described it as one of the most innovative yet practical actions the county has ever taken. He said he came to London specifically to say to the Clare diaspora and tour operators that the county is open for business and open to new ideas for delivering UK tourists to one of the most spectacular physical and cultural landscapes in the country.
Accessibility to Clare and the West of Ireland from London and other major UK cities through Shannon Airport is a key element of the London to Clare initiative. Airport management and all tourism-related organisations in the region have an interest in not only preserving existing air services into Shannon but also increasing business. There is common cause on this front.
Of course, the idea of targeting the Clare diaspora as potential tourists is something that can be spread beyond our nearest neighbour, which traditionally has been an invaluable supporter of the Irish tourism industry.
With regions and individual counties competing more fiercely than ever for a share of a market that has been severely hit by the economic decline, one must ask can Clare afford to wait and see what comes of efforts by organisations such as Shannon Development, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland? They certainly do great work but a Clare-centred promotion group, like that which travelled to London, would in all likelihood reap a better return for the Banner County. Certainly, get more visitors to come to Ireland but getting them to stay as long as possible in Clare is the main priority. Targeting Clare people in particular would, no doubt, make this task somewhat easier.
HSE’s ‘deceased husband’ letter
THE failings of the Health Service Executive have once again been exposed through the experiences of a Clare family.
A Sixmilebridge woman this week revealed how a year ago, the HSE dealt her a needless, devastating blow when writing to her about her “deceased husband”.
Dolores Keogh had sought access to the medical records of her husband, John, under the Freedom of Information Act. Mr Keogh spent eight weeks at the Acute Psychiatric Unit of Ennis Hospital after being admitted as a voluntary patient in February 2009.
In a HSE West letter of response, sent on December 21 last, part of the reference line read, “Mr John Keogh RIP”. It further read, “Please note these are the only medical records we hold on your deceased husband attending the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Dooradoyle, Limerick.” The HSE did list records “relevant to your request”.
Mrs Keogh’s understandable distress and upset was eased only by the fact that her husband was, in fact, in the house but still quite ill.
Mrs Keogh was also stonewalled in her attempt to file complaints about her husband’s hospital treatment. Clare Mental Health Services has apologised to Mrs Keogh over its failure to deal properly with her complaint concerning her dissatisfaction with treatment of her husband but she wants the HSE to conduct an independent public inquiry into all aspects of her husband’s care while he was a patient in Ennis. This inquiry, she believes, should include all psychiatric patients who were present at the time.
While not in a position to comment this week, back in 2009 when contacted about Mr Keogh’s case, the HSE stated it was confident this patient “is receiving high quality care delivered by clinical staff and expert in the management of this type of illness”.
Both related issues came to light following the release of a report by the Office of the Ombudsman, which stated a local manager couldn’t find any record to indicate whether or not the complaint by Mrs Keogh was ever referred to a senior medic and acknowledged that, in all probability, it was not done.
In the absence of records of Mrs Keogh’s complaints and given that she has gone public, there is no good reason why an inquiry with strict terms of reference cannot be undertaken.