Currach made on a recent boat building coarse run on Clare Island.

Launch of Clare Island Community Futures Plan 9th November 2014

It was a busy day for a Sunday in November on Clare Island November 9th last. There was an extra ferry put on to bring a host of people into the island to participate in the launch day. Islanders were also out in force to celebrate the launch of their Community Futures Plan and were delighted to welcome local politicians and representatives from Mayo County Council and Mayo, Sligo & Leitrim ETB. A lunch of Clare Island Organic Salmon got the day off to a good start and then it was time to head for the beach for the next part of the celebrations.

Fr. Garvey travelled in for the blessing of the traditional Currach that was built by Islanders on a recent Currach Building Course. It was launched from the blue flag beach by Seosamh McDonncha, CEO of Mayo, Sligo & Leitrim ETB & Stephen Bearpark, National Co-ordinator of the Back to Education Initiative BTEI. The beautiful wooden handcrafted currach proved seaworthy and men were ferried from beach to pier to sea and back to dry land again. Minister Ring and Seosamh McDonncha surprised everybody by braving the November seas and taking a turn at the oars. The currach’s name “An Pota Craifisc” was chosen by the local school children. It is painted in white and red and not the usual black we have come to associate with currachs of the West of Ireland. Wet feet were soon forgotten as everybody returned to the Community Centre for tea and cake before the plan itself was launched.

The action plan is a result of extensive community engagement carried out this year and will act as a community-led blueprint for future development projects on Clare Island. The plan was officially launched was by Minister Michael Ring, Minister of State for Transport, Tourism & Sport. It wasn’t all smiles as islanders took the opportunity to highlight the disastrous impact the changes to local government will have on the island community if implemented. The possible closure of the development office with the loss of 2 jobs on the island will set development and programme implementation back 30 years. It is worth noting that Cliara Development Company has been highlighted as the local body best placed to develop and implement the Community Futures Plan, yet the organisation’s very existence is under threat. The challenges facing islands are unique and if the government is serious of about safeguarding this rural way of life for future generations then now is the time to act by reversing the devastating cuts proposed in funding. We need the support of our local politicians and County Council now more than ever. It was reassuring to hear Minister Ring state his acknowledgement of the issues that we are facing and his desire to help us protect services on Clare Island.

The speeches were followed by performances of traditional music and dance from talented islanders ranging in age from 8 to 80. As the Minister and mainlanders made for the boat home the celebrations continued in the Community Centre.