A Waterford delegation will meet Tourism Minister Michael Ring today to ask that their county be included on the Wild Atlantic Way.
The 2,500 kilometre tourism trail runs from Malin Head in Co. Donegal to Kinsale in Co. Cork, but business people further east believe their exclusion from the route defies logic.
“We’re not asking for a handout, just for common sense to prevail,” said Paul Flynn, Chef and owner of the award-winning Tannery restaurant in Dungarvan.
He added: “There is no valid reason why East Cork and Waterford are not on the route, it’s surreal that we’re excluded. Fáilte Ireland has done an amazing job in promoting the initiative, but it’s an insult to say there’s nothing worthwhile to see east of Kinsale.”
The delegation, to be headed by Waterford county manager Michael Walsh, will include council staff and business representatives. They will give a presentation to Minister Ring and Fáilte Ireland officials.
Dungarvan-based TD John Deasy believes the route extension is both possible and necessary.
He told Independent.ie: “We already have the South East Coastal Drive, so in effect making Waterford, and East Cork, part of the Wild Atlantic Way would just be a rebranding exercise. When people in Waterford see that the route stretches to the Northern tip of the island, and also promotes an extension to the Causeway Coastal Route, we wonder why so much of the southern seaboard is overlooked.”
Although it does not feature on the Wild Atlantic Way, Waterford is a key component of Fáilte Ireland's newest proposition - Ireland's Ancient East, a "touring region" tapping 5,000 years of history in Ireland's south and east.
Fáilte Ireland has also pointed out that its biggest capital investment in several years has been in Waterford - €10.8 million for the city's Viking Triangle development (€10m was being invested in the Wild Atlantic Way in 2014, by contrast).
Calls for the route extension have met with a lukewarm reception in West Cork, and many in Waterford say that Cork County Council has sidelined the issue.
West Cork TD Noel Harrington of Fine Gael said Waterford should concentrate on developing its own coastal brand rather than trying to get onto the Wild Atlantic Way.
He said: “It doesn’t make sense to tinker with a brand that’s just trying to bed down. I have sympathy with what they’re trying to do, but it would make more sense for them to build on their own brand ‘the Copper Coast’.”
And Labour’s Michael McCarthy said: “The Wild Atlantic Way was never intended to be defined by the extent of Ireland's Atlantic coast, but was broadly to follow the routing of the Malin to Mizen geography. Any extension of the trail would have a significant impact on the entire region.”
John Deasy believes arguments that extending the Wild Atlantic Way would threaten the already struggling Cork airport are without basis, saying: “Cork has something like 52 air routes; Waterford has two.”