Kilkee’s biggest threat is not the lack of people in the area for the vast majority of the year but rather the absence of “permanent and appropriate housing”.
In the space of ten years (2006 – 2016), the population of Kilkee halved from 1,414 to 914. The 2016 Census also revealed that unemployment in the coastal location was at 26 percent. Back in the 1950s, it was the third largest town in the county however it also slowly fallen behind and based on the most recent Census it was the 16th largest town in Clare.
Co-founder of Loop Head Tourism, Cillian Murphy who is running as a Fianna Fáil candidate in the Kilrush local electoral area on May 24th told The Clare Echo that seasonality is not the biggest issue facing Kilkee. “Kilkee for 200 years has been a seasonal town. The reality is we’re not going to change that overnight, this comes down to foresight and I completely accept it’s very easy to look back and say we should have done it differently twenty years ago but we are where we are.
“I don’t think the seasonality of the tourism in Kilkee is the big issue, the lack of permanent and appropriate housing is the problem. There are plenty of places all over the world that have a very seasonal tourism industry but it is an issue around the world to have this on season off season type of business dealing with it, we are where we are we can’t solve that problem today or tomorrow, what we have to do is take the lessons from the last twenty years and apply them today so that we can look back in twenty years time and say we did the right thing there, we realised there was an issue, we planned for a better outcome in the future and here we are in the future having made the decisions and saying we didn’t do such a bad job”.
Cillian who is the owner of Murphy Blacks Restaurant alongside his wife Mary spoke of how businesses in the area have financially planned to deal with the drops and spikes in activity of the town. “The work I’ve done with Loop Head Tourism over the last ten years has stretched our season, there are real other cusps such as The Wild Atlantic Way, we did it in a way that suited us we drove the agenda that it was not going to be a sheer volume issue with the volume and visitor making the difference, for us it was always about the value of each visitor and the cost associated with each visitor so you could make the case that we are where we are now without having significant investment in tourism per sé on the peninsula, our businesses haven’t had to invest huge money into quadrupling the size of their business.
“We have taken our businesses that could deal with fifty or sixty people instead of having a maximum for three months, they are now opened and operating profitably for nine months, that’s real measure of success that we’ve managed to do that without having to pump millions of euros into the tourism product. Loop Head’s tourism budget is probably €200,000 over the last ten years, as a return on investment that’s really significant. Kilkee is obviously the primary benefit because of the sheer volume of the business from Loop Head Tourism project but Kilkee is part of the project and it has huge positive benefits for everyone in the peninsula not just the tourism industry, more vibrant pubs and shops and better things to do with facilities for the people who live here, open longer times of the year so that doesn’t just benefit business people, we live here too so we always have to make sure that when we’re off season we’ve nice things to do for ourselves”.