*Cahercon. Photograph: Ann-Marie Hanrahan

Cahercon has the potential to be “a world class marine facility”, a meeting in Kilrush has heard.

Funding of €1.75m was allocated towards the development of a Maritime Centre of Excellence at Cahercon House in December. The first phase of the project is to provide a specialist commercial training facility providing mandatory maritime training courses and value-added training for non-seafaring personnel taking up positions at sea with an emphasis on those in the Cruise Ship industry.

As a result of the funding, renovations and refurbishment work of the existing accommodation block and classrooms in Cahercon House can take place, allowing for the first phase to progress.

Senior planner with Clare County Council, Brian McCarthy informed Friday’s meeting of the West Clare Municipal District that the focus since December has been on marketing the Clare Maritime Economic Zone (Clare MEZ) and Cahercon facility with a dedicated website setup and brochures produced.

“Through the attendance of our partners with Cruise Ireland at the Seatrade Cruise Global Conference in Miami in April, the project has been marketed worldwide to key stakeholders in the cruise industry. I am advised that feedback has been highly positive not just from the cruise companies but from other organisations seeing development possibilities including marine renewable energy in the zone around Cahercon”.

McCarthy felt the reference to the development in the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation’s Mid-West Regional Enterprise Plan to 2020 plus the draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) for the Southern Region were positive indicators. “The focus is now on concluding a number of critical elements required for the project and in particular sourcing funding and maximising finances”.

“If progressed this will be a project of scale which will enhance opportunities for the immediate locality and will be of significant economic and social benefit to the wider West Clare area”, Brian concluded.

Fine Gael’s Gabriel Keating welcomed the update from the senior planner, “It is noticeable it has received huge recognition in Miami”. Cllr Keating continued, “From what I see funding is always available if you have the right budget. We could be looking at a world class marine facility in the future. Cahercon has the deepest water in western Europe, this is a step in the right direction and I welcome it, with the likes of Brian McCarthy at the helm it will be successful”.

Cathaoirleach of the West Clare MD, Ian Lynch stated that the development all stemmed from a notice of motion he put forward. “Brian pursued it and pursued it, he did tremendous work to make it happen. His vision has got support and it will be a huge influence for the whole West Clare area”.

Although he was happy with the progress reported, Fianna Fáil’s PJ Kelly shared his concerns regarding the cost of removing silt “to allow boats approach the pier at Cahercon”. He warned, “If certain investors visited the pier when the tide was out, I fear they would be walking out”.

Cllr Lynch told Cllr Kelly “it will be a training facility” to which he sharply responded, “You’re not going to train them without putting them into boats” though Lynch felt the potential was there to get boats in the future, “It’s the start of something good”.

“This is the beginning, watch this space,” Keating added while Independent Christy Curtin stated “It will take time”. “I’m fully supportive but I have concerns”, Lissycasey’s Kelly reminded his fellow elected representatives.

Fianna Fáil’s Richard Nagle assured the meeting removing the silt would not be a major task. “The silt can be removed, it has been done at Liscannor. If the only problem is the silt I’m sure it would be possible to overcome it”.

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