Community news: West Kerry
It has become so difficult for West Kerry's inshore fishermen to make a living that they are being forced to risk their lives heading further and further out to sea in search of fish in small boats that are desperately exposed in the open ocean.
Young Dingle fishermen told The Kerryman this week that, ten years ago, a decent wage could be made fishing for inshore species such as pollock. Now they can barely cover their costs and they reckon that in 10 years' time there will be no inshore fishermen left.
The fishermen are being hit by a combination of factors, including depleted fish stocks, lack of quota for some fish species that appear to be plentiful and, significantly, by the impact of the growing number of marauding seals which make it virtually impossible to fish in the rich waters around the Blaskets.
Faced by these challenges, fishermen are forced to travel up to 30 miles or more from land, often fishing on their own because what they catch isn't worth enough to pay a crew. The level of risk associated with this is frightening: aside from the ever-present dangers of the open sea and the weather, even a simple accident or a leg snagged on a rope going overboard could cost a young man his life.
"In 10 years' time there will be no local inshore fishermen left and the government don't want to hear about it; they don't care," said Adam Flannery who sold his 8.5m boat just last week because he sees no future in fishing.
Adam, and his fellow Dingle fishermen Tom Brosnan and Liam Flannery said that the single greatest threat to their livelihood at the moment is the increasing population of seals around the Blaskets. The men said the seal population in the area is officially calculated at over 1,400 but they believe the actual number could be many times greater and the impact on fish stocks and fishing practices is devastating.
They said it is now impossible to fish around the Blaskets because fish that are caught in nets or on long-line hooks are eaten or damaged by seals before they can be hauled on board the boats. To prove the point, Adam was able to show The Kerryman a phone video of a seal eating fish from a jigger (fishing line) as it was being hauled about his boat. He also had pictures of boxes of fish that were unfit for human consumption because huge bites were taken out of them by seals.
The Kerryman asked the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), which monitors the Blasket seal population, to comment but they had failed to respond by the time of going to press. Meanwhile, the local expert view is that the NPWS needs to define the maximum sustainable number of seals on the Blaskets and to carry out humane culls if the population exceeds this number, as is done with deer in Killarney National Park.
Dingle fishermen demand better facilities
Fishermen gathered on Dingle pier on Sunday to share their concerns about the facilities available to their ailing industry with Sinn Féin local election candidate Robert Brosnan and his party colleague Deputy Martin Ferris.
Chief among their demands was the provision of an ice plant to provide for the needs of small boats that don't have their own ice-making equipment on board. This problem has plagued inshore fishermen since 2011 when the BIM ice plant that dominates the end of Dingle pier was closed down. Since then local fish factories have supplied small boats with ice but this is inconvenient, labour intensive, and ice isn't always available at the times that fishermen want to head out to sea.
Given that the former BIM ice plant closed down because it was no longer viable in an era when larger vessels are equipped with their own ice-making equipment, the chances of a replacement are slim. But that answer isn't good enough for fisherman David Granville who outlined the implications in clear and simple terms: "Fishing is all about quality now, not quantity, and for quality you have to have ice".
A separate issue raised by fishermen was that an electric crane installed on the quay in Dingle in November still isn't operational. However, The Kerryman understands that minor fitting out has yet to be completed on the crane and it will also have to pass a safety inspection before it can be used. Fishermen will also have to receive brief training on the safe and proper use of the 250kg crane before they will be allowed operate it.
Because the Department of the Marine could be liable for any accidents associated with the crane, its use will be very closely monitored on an ongoing basis and fishermen who don't stick to the rules will risk getting a 'black card'. Similar light-weight cranes are common in small fishing ports in countries such Spain but in Ireland some harbour authorities have shut down existing cranes because they were so afraid of being sued in the event of an accident.
Council gets €1m funding to complete Dingle Relief Road
Kerry County Council now has enough money to complete the final 600m of the Dingle Relief Road, linking Goat Street to the Mail Road, following the announcement this week that €1 million has been granted to the project under the Regional and Local Roads Programme 2019.
Construction started last autumn on the €3.75 million Phase Four of the project, from the Spa Road to Goat Street, and that work is now substantially complete, with most of the tarmac, earthworks, drainage, sewage, electricity, and public lighting facilities in place. The remaining work includes completion of the 'tie-in' points where the new road meets both Spa Road and Goat Street, the construction of footpaths and boundary walls, final surfacing and lining.
It is expected that new section of road will be open before the summer, allowing motorists to bypass the centre of Dingle and easing the tourist season traffic jams that have plagued the town.
The overall relief road strategy for Dingle, which is reflected in the current Local Area Plan, included a fifth phase that would link Goat Street with Strand Street and service a proposed car and coach park at Farranakilla. The Council is examining how both this road link and the proposed car and coach park could be funded.
This is something of a wish-list project because, even if money to build the road can be found, the council recognises that "significant land acquisition would be required" and that could be a rather involved and costly process.
West Kerry troubles and tragedy feature in historical journal
West Kerry features strongly in the latest edition of the Journal of the Kerry Archaeological & Historical Society, which will be launched by local historian, author and retired history teacher Pat Neligan in Dingle Library on Thursday, February 7, at 7pm.
All five articles in this edition of the Journal have a direct link to West Kerry and the topics range from smuggling to archaeology to local folklore.
The Journal includes Dr Conor Brosnan's account of 'Smuggling in Dingle in the 18th and 19th Centuries', and 'Bád na nGort Dubh' by Dáithí de Mordha, which details how 21 Gorta Dubha men were drowned near the Blaskets during a clash with crews from Dún Chaoin over the salvage of a stricken ship in January 1818. Both Conor and Dáithí delivered lectures on these topics to full houses in Mara Beo during last year's Maritime Weekend and they will no doubt be as fascinating in print as they were in the spoken word.
The Journal also offers an article by Dr Toby Barnard (University of Oxford) entitled 'Petticoat Government? The borough of Dingle during the 1770s', along with Dr James O'Driscoll's (University of Aberdeen) - 'Archaeology of the Hillforts of Faha and Caherconree', and Kay Caball's account of 'Quakers in Kerry During the Famine'.
Some of the authors will be at the launch and everyone is welcome to attend, but given the level of interest in local history in West Kerry it might be a good idea to arrive early to have a hope of getting a foot inside the door.
Striking the right note at Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh
A unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the Irish language while improving skills in a musical instrument will be provided at the music classes run as part of the 2019 Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh, which runs over five days later this month.
The classes, and the passing on of the musical tradition of West Kerry, are central to the music school which will take place in Baile 'n Fheirtéaraigh from February 20-24. Classes cost €60 and take place over three mornings from February 21 - 23 and teachers include Breánndán Ó Beaglaíoch, Dermot Mac Laughlin, Steve Cooney, Nell Ní Chróinín, Eilís Ní Chinnéide, Carthach Mac Craith and Aoife and Deirdre Granville. The students from all the classes combine for a concert in Seipéal Naomh Uinsinn at lunch time on the Saturday.
For full details of teachers visit their website www.scoilcheoil.com. To make a booking for a class send an email with your name and the chosen instrument and teacher to email@example.com.
Curtain Call 25 years a growing
Curtain Call in John Street is celebrating 25 years in business this week and amid the celebrations to mark the occasion owners Josie and Tim Finn are holding a sale commencing this Thursday.
End of an era as Tig a’ Phoist closes in Carraig
After more than a century of providing an outstanding service to the local community Tig a Phoist in Carraig, Baile na nGall will close its doors this Thursday.
The shop has been run by Johanna Uí Chonchúir for the past 52 years and in that time she has provided sustenance to thirsty and hungry tourists, cyclists, walkers, and Irish language students as well as providing a grocery shop and newsagent for local families.
As was common with small shops of its time, the business was originally part of the family home but in the 1980s Johanna decided to build a separate premises for the shop and at the same time expanded the services to include video rental as well as a greater variety of produce.
After so many years serving the community, Johanna feels it is time to retire. Locals, who will now have to travel to Dingle, Ballyferriter or Ventry for a pint of milk, are very sorry to lose their local shop, but they also feel that Johanna has put in her time and they wish her a long and happy retirement.
Féile lays its cards on the table
Preparations are underway for Féile na Bealtaine, the five day arts festival held on the May Weekend. The community festival is run entirely on voluntary effort and the committee is collaborating with the card playing members of the community for a fundraising card drive which will take place in the Dingle Pub on Sunday, February 10th at 6pm.
Storm Fest gets an airing
Last weekend's Storm Festival didn't have much by way of storms but the compensation came in the form of lots of opportunities to get out and enjoy the fresh air in what was pretty benign weather for the time of year.
On Sunday there were well-attended walks to Bulls Head in the company of the regular members of Dingle Walking Club, and around some of the hidden gems of Camp in the company of Camp Walking Club. Less strenuous options included a 'whirlwind' tour of stormy locations around West Kerry and a picturesque drive-and-stop tour for photography enthusiasts.
Perhaps informed by Napoleon's thinking that 'an army marches on its stomach', the festival also included lots of cooking and eating events. These included a variety of classes at the Dingle Cookery School and a local produce dinner in Castlegregory. With an opportunity to attempt 'throwing' pottery thrown in for good measure it made an enjoyable weekend for those who participated in what is a quiet festival at a quiet time of year.
Busman’s holiday to help Kerry Hospice
A busman's holiday to raise funds for Kerry Hospice is the brain child of Paddy Kennedy.
Paddy and his wife Anne, of Kennedy's Coaches, wanted to support the Hospice and as buses and coaches are what they know best they decided to enlist the support of fellow coachmen at Kerry Coaches in Killarney, Flynn's Coaches of Castlemaine and O'Shea's Coaches of Tralee to run a convoy tour of the Slea Head Drive.
They are promising no ordinary bus tour as passengers will be treated to singing tour guides, storytellers, and a stop for dancing at the crossroads en route. The excursion will end with an afternoon tea dance in the Skellig Hotel after which passengers will be returned to their pick up point by coach.
The coaches will converge at the South Pole Inn in Annascaul at 12 noon before heading west in convoy. The organisers are providing pick up locations at Tralee, Killarney, Killorglin, Camp, Farranfore, Milltown, Castlemaine, Castlegregory, Annascaul and Dingle.
The 'Coach Convoy' will take place on Saturday, March 9. Tickets, which cost €25 including the afternoon tea buffet, can be reserved by contacting Miriam at firstname.lastname@example.org or by text to 087 2409195. Please include your name, number of tickets and preferred pickup location. Money raised from the tour will go to the Kerry Hospice Foundation.