Following a weekend where a visiting boat-owning fisherman was unable to fish out of Kilkee, there has been further criticism of the lack of available keys to access the East End car park.
To access the slipway, boat-owners or divers must first obtain the keys to the barrier, which Clare County Council put up at the entrance.
Last weekend, Mike Carrig, who lives in Quin, was forced to travel from Kilkee to Kilbaha in order to fish. He couldn’t access the slipway in Kilkee and did not know where to look for a key.
Jackie McGrath, diving officer with Kilkee Sub Aqua Club, says the town is losing out on significant visitor numbers, due to the access issues at the car park.
“I wrote to CFT, our body of divers in Ireland. Our president sent the letter to the county council and other diving clubs sent letters to the county council, to explain that we only had one key in the town and we couldn’t get in,” she explained.
“What annoyed me is that we’re the third most attractive European destination for diving and, yet, many divers cannot get into the sea. For 100 years, they’ve been able to get into the sea and they are blocked now. People can’t get their boats in and out. When I started diving, I remember going back to that slipway and it was full of boats, full of campervans and full of life,” she said.
Ms McGrath noted that, last year, Kilkee enjoyed some of the best weather in years, yet there was no one diving there.
“Athlone Sub Aqua Club got a key and I think Limerick Sub Aqua Club got one. Last year, we had a meeting with the county council and they were very reluctant to hand out keys. They gave keys to the rescue services, the gardaí and us, being the local club. I took responsibility for the key but I was going up and down opening up the gate for divers coming in and out. It wasn’t feasible long-term because I was working,” she added.
“I thought it was awful that divers couldn’t get in because it was stopping them from coming to Kilkee. One of the guys in the club, Ger Haugh, owns Myles Creek bar. So we left the key behind the bar and it has been there ever since. So, what happens is the divers ring me when they can’t get in and they then go down and get the key. That’s how they are getting in and out but it has stopped a lot of divers coming to Kilkee,” she outlined.
The issue was on the agenda of the now abolished Kilkee Town Council for many months. At the July 2013 meeting, it emerged that emergency services and water-based organisations in the town were to be given a key apiece so they could unlock the barrier.
The then town mayor, Paddy Collins, also suggested that boat-owners visiting the town should join Kilkee Boat Club to ensure access to the pier. The locks were changed in 2013, following the arrival of “an illegal encampment”. Mr Collins noted at the Kilkee Town Council meeting almost 12 months ago that, “The locks were changed and there were no keys given out. Nobody could get access to the car park. The county engineer and the town engineer were only ones with keys. It went up on the internet that Kilkee was closed for diving.”
A meeting between council engineers, Kilkee Rescue, Kilkee Coastguard, Kilkee Diving Club, Kilkee Boat Club, gardaí and ambulance services was subsequently held to resolve the access issue, which is still ongoing.
Last year, town clerk John Corry said fewer keys would ensure greater security.
“The importance of it going forward is that there will be a greater element of control by the fact that there are fewer keys,” he noted.