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West Clare has the capability to pounce on what is expected to be a dramatically altered cruise industry.

“Significant changes” to the cruise industry are predicted by Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) who felt the time was right for Clare County Council to establish a partnership with existing cruise ship agents entering the Shannon Estuary.

Cahercon, Kilrush and Carrigaholt may be used for “landing passengers offering a unique visitor experience along west Clare to ensure we are best placed to maximise any potential from the cruise ship tourism,” he suggested. The proposal was seconded by Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG).

The cruise industry is worth an estimated €70 million to Ireland’s economy, with 157,000 cruise passengers and 69,000 cruise ship crew members visiting Cork alone in 2018, and injecting €12 million into the Cork and Cobh economies specifically.

Senior planner with the local authority, Brian McCarthy noted that its location on the Wild Atlantic Way with natural deep and sheltered waters, Co Clare and the Shannon Estuary “is a welcoming and attractive destination for cruise liners and their passengers” with bounding counties Kerry and Limerick also possessing tourism offerings.

McCarthy outlined that the Council’s Strategic Economic Initiatives unit have worked and collaborated with Shannon Foynes Port Company and Kerry County Council, Limerick City and County Council to form Cruise Shannon Estuary over the past year. This, he explained is an initiative to “sustainably grow the cruise and sustainable marine tourism industry” while also establishing the Shannon Estuary and Clare as “one of the top destinations for cruise liners in Europe”.

Clare is seen as the location for the docking of small to medium size cruise ships mid-way in the Estuary with passengers getting the options to travel south to Foynes if heading to Kerry or Limerick or northwards to Cahercon Pier and Clare “enabling tourists visit the amenities and attractions in the nearby coastal towns and villages of the Clare along the Estuary and experience the stunning trails, local produce and attractions of the County”.

Cahercon Pier is the current focus of the Cruise Shannon Estuary Initiative but McCarthy acknowledged Carrigaholt and Kilrush also have potential “for further maritime related development and initiatives”.

Speaking at this month’s meeting of the West Clare Municipal District, Cllr Lynch was adamant Clare could get its fair share from the cruise industry. He felt Kilrush was nowhere near its capacity for tourism with potential to grow its offering.

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