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Ballybunion on an economic cliff-edge due to Coronavirus

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Noel, Ellen and Cillian Courtney of Courtney’s Bar with County Councillor Robert Beasley. The family hope to be able to re-open the bar while maintaining social distancing. Photos by Domnick Walsh

Noel, Ellen and Cillian Courtney of Courtney’s Bar with County Councillor Robert Beasley. The family hope to be able to re-open the bar while maintaining social distancing. Photos by Domnick Walsh

Noel, Ellen and Cillian Courtney of Courtney’s Bar with County Councillor Robert Beasley. The family hope to be able to re-open the bar while maintaining social distancing. Photos by Domnick Walsh

The impact of the virus is proving devastating for a town that didn't even experience a single case of COVID-19.

Almost completely dependant on the golf and holiday season of April to October for its livelihood, Ballybunion is now left teetering on the edge of an economic abyss thanks to the coronavirus.

It's exposed like few other tourist towns, to the degree that many business people there are now deeply concerned whether they will ever get back on their feet.

Tourism and related industries in Kerry will witness a drop of 70 per cent this year, roughly €400 million in lost revenue.

Per head, it's an impact that will be felt even more sharply in Ballybunion where no other industry, outside of farming, exists to buffer the collapse.

Sinn Féin County Councillor Robert Beasley is this week urging the State for any kind of a break possible in a town where so many seasonal workers have been unable to access the COVID payments - because they hadn't been working prior to March.

"How many businesses are going to reopen here now? A lot of people fear they are on their last legs with the complete wipe-out of the trade here now," Cllr Beasley told The Kerryman.

"A summer when there's nothing happening will have devastating consequences for everyone here now, students might not even be able to afford going to college at the end of the year," he warned.

Students comprise a large part of a seasonal workforce employed in big guest-houses, hotels, restaurants and pubs as the population swells amid the arrival of thousands to the mobile home parks in July and August.

The biggest employer, Ballybunion Golf Club, thankfully reopened this week, but it's likely its overseas custom base will be non-existent this year - driving employment down.

"Two thirds of our tourists would be international in relation to the Golf Club, 80 per cent of them would be American, the other 10 per cent from Europe and the UK and 10 per cent from the Orient.

"They won't be coming now in any event, and there are numerous hotels and guest-houses dependant on them that will be hit hard."

"This year will have a serious effect on our economy as we're so exposed to tourism, it's how we have always survived. The Killarneys, Dingles and Kenmares will survive but it's a different story for the likes of Ballybunion and Ballyheigue and North Kerry on the whole. When I was caddy master in Ballybunion, our caddies were drawn from right across North Kerry so the importance of the Golf Club cannot be overstated.

"The pandemic payment should be given to seasonal workers, they should have been included in it, but you had to be working prior to the restrictions coming into effect to have been eligible for it. I think the Government should provide wage subsidies or employment grants now for workers, as well as for pubs and restaurants," Cllr Beasley said.

He also called on insurance companies and landlords to give local businesses every break possible in a bid to allow them get back on their feet in 2021.

"Anything at all that can be done to improve the situation should be considered."

Kerryman