Good vibrations back for Cavan town with the fleadh in full flow
THE vibrations are good in Cavan town these days -- and it isn't just because it has been hosting the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil.
If any town had needed a lift, it was Cavan. Until recently, cross-border trading had been wreaking havoc on local businesses. And the town's 325 or so traders had to suffer the indignity of witnessing shoppers being transported 40 miles in free buses to Enniskillen.
Then, last April, the unthinkable happened when administrators were appointed to the town's flagship Quinn Insurance company, with hundreds of job losses expected to follow.
The double whammy brought the town to its knees.
But even at its lowest ebb, there were signs that while down, this resilient town was far from out.
Christine McGuinness, proprietor of the Back to Nature health food store on the town's Main Street, now senses change in the air.
From the inner sanctum of Merlin's Cave, surrounded by crystals and angels, she talks about "the power of attraction".
"I work all the time with vibrational things and how things feel. This fleadh has brought a tremendous lift," she said.
"There is a mood with people now. There is a smiling and light and easiness. There is a feeling of aliveness. We are creating something together.
"We ban recession-speak in here. We are just not having it."
A new guard of young, enthusiastic business people has rekindled the town's Chamber of Commerce and are fighting hard to reverse the cross-border exodus of shoppers.
"We were caught unaware for a while but we fought back quickly and hard," said former chamber president and financial consultant Eamon McDwyer (38).
"We started to market Cavan as a sterling price match location. We introduced 'shop local' vouchers. The strengthening of sterling and the increase in VAT across the border also helped."
Attracting a number of key events to the town provided a marketing and trading boost, with footfall from the Fleadh Cheoil alone worth an estimated €20m.
In June a major town festival brought thousands of visitors, and next month it will host the Irish Motorshow.
Mr McDwyer believes that securing the Fleadh Cheoil coincided with Cavan's recovery, rather than caused it. "It's the first time in my lifetime that all the business people have worked together. People just put their shoulders to the wheel."
Cavan county manager Jack Keyes added: "There is a real can-do attitude around that I think the fleadh has accelerated. People are going around with a smile on their faces and a spring in their step which I have never seen before."
Exemplifying this attitude is mother-of-three Grainne Hourican, who returned from the US to open an American-style bagel cafe, Chapter 1, in the town. Last week she opened two other food outlets to feed the visiting masses.
"Our challenge was to ensure there would be enough food to cater for the tens of thousands of visitors to the town. I leased a lingerie shop across the street and opened a hot dinner outlet and we opened a burger stand just beside Chapter 1.
"I think it has given a great lift to the town and to the spirits of the people in the town."