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Big oil, small village... The local business owners

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LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Tom and Orla Talbot outside their hotel in the town Photo : Keith Heneghan

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Tom and Orla Talbot outside their hotel in the town Photo : Keith Heneghan

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Tom and Orla Talbot outside their hotel in the town Photo : Keith Heneghan

Tom and Orla Talbot, parents to two girls, run one of two hotels in Belmullet. They opened the 21-room Talbot, a boutique-style hotel, at the height of the recession in 2009.

"We opened as a direct result of the gas terminal and have grown with it. We ran a restaurant before that. People thought we were mad opening when we did, but once work on the terminal began we saw a real need for accommodation. It has been a huge source of business.

"In the Nineties this area was regularly referred to as an 'economic blackspot'. Before 2006, before construction began on the terminal, there were really no hotels here.

"But it is unfair to say Erris didn't feel the recession. Lots of people lost jobs. Corrib didn't employ as many locals as it could have because of the timing of it. The jobs were already staffed when the economy started to nosedive, so in some cases it was too late for locals who found themselves needing work.

"The period when they were battling over the route of the pipeline and getting planning permission was intense. Like a fish bowl, everyone was watching. The Chamber of Commerce fell apart - they didn't want to come out for or against it. But it is back up and running now.

"Things have changed. There were families who were opposed to it who now have sons who work on it.

"In terms of the end of construction and the reduction in numbers staying in the town, of course there is always a fear of the unknown. But we are optimistic. And there will be people coming and going for years as they service the terminal.

"The marketing of the Wild Atlantic Way has really helped - not just ourselves but all businesses here. We had loads of camper vans visiting this summer, we hadn't seen that in years. Loads of different nationalities.

"Our biggest disadvantage is Belmullet's location. We are an hour from a train station and two-and-a-half hours from the nearest airport. We are dependent on roads, and they are badly signposted and often in Irish - tourists can't find us.

"Shell hasn't taken over Belmullet. Maybe it did for a few years, but that has settled down. Tourists come and don't know Shell is here."

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