Scene Set for Second Chamber Alliance Meeting

There was a head-lice scare once upon a time when I was at national school. I can’t remember the exact details of it now but I know our class members – at least – were given notes to take home one evening and for some kind of root-and-branch examination to be done there.
I do remember in the school yard the following few days my class-mates and myself had plenty to talk about and the cleanest, shiniest, smelliest hair in the world.
Mothers, grandmothers, older sisters neighbours and even fathers got in on the louse hunt and some took it to extremes and went for the shears.
They were no hairdressers – and it showed and their shearing couldn’t be hidden and the afflicted got a woeful ribbing. If the town of Castleisland had feelings on a recent Tuesday night it would have known exactly the kind of scrutiny we went through.
The preliminary meeting to set up the Castleisland Chamber Alliance gave the town the most comprehensive grilling it got since its foundation.
There is a feeling, even after one meeting, that this process is what the area needs in terms of its rejuvenation – it’s now a matter of picking the right team ! Where did we hear that before ?
The room at the River Island was full of hope and that’s exactly what brought the 40-strong crowd there.
Mayor Bobby O’Connell did the introductions and told the gathering that he had asked Michael John Kearney to chair the events of the night. Niamh O’Sullivan and Angela McAllen represented Kerry County Council.
Ger Counihan and Trudi O’Sullivan travelled over from Killorglin to outline the Puck experience in setting up its Chamber Alliance.
As they spoke the natives nodded as if their own story was being told right back to them. Killorglin – the First Town on the Ring of Kerry. Castleisland – The first Town on The Gateway to Kerry. Cars and bus loads of young people in droves leaving both towns at weekends for nightspots in Killarney. Loads to talk about – loads in common.

“I look at Killarney – but not with envy. I look and learn,” said Ger Counihan from the top table.
“All our towns have something to offer. My wife loves coming to Castleisland to shop. There’s great help out there. Suck up to the TDs and I see Tom Fleming down there,” said Mr. Counihan.

Trudi O’Sullivan told the prospective chamber members, which she presumed would be drawn, sooner or later from the gathering before her, that any such group in Castleisland would have to incorporate sport.
“Castleisland and sport are synonymous and you will need to think about incorporating all aspects of the community in a chamber like this – and you are far better off going to the likes of Kerry County Council with one voice,” said Ms. O’Sullivan.

It was then that the attendance broke into four talking shop type groups and produced the recommendations in the report which has been sent to us by Niamh O’Sullivan from Kerry County Council.

The groups rose in their turns and delivered their considerations. It was generally thought that it would take at least another meeting before the aimed for Castleisland Chamber Alliance would see the light of day.

The following is the public meeting report on the establishment of the Castleisland Chamber Alliance: River Island Hotel, 15th of September 2015

At the meeting, four Working Groups were established and the feedback outlined in this report was presented by:

Group 1: Jeremy Burke; Group 2: Nicola Lawless; Group 3: Charlie Farelly and Group 4: Liz Galwey.

Discussion Points:

Q 1. Does Castleisland need to speak with one voice?

A 1. Yes – we need to work together as one strong voice. An Action Plan should be developed. Specific terms of reference will be needed. Action: A Chamber Alliance to be formed.

Q 2. Is it a chamber that is needed or something different?

A 2. A Chamber alliance was the preferred option. Sub-groups could be established to support the main executive group. Re-election after two years, maximum term served four years. Candidates should be nominated for their strengths.

Action: To be agreed at meeting on the 29th of September.
Q 3: Who should be represented on this group?
A 3: The following sectors should be represented: Business; Retail; Sports and Leisure; Farming and Agriculture; Social Enterprise; Tourism; Community; Arts and Culture; Social Services and Schools. One or two people nominated to represent each sector. Should have an IT expert on the Group. Eight to ten members with a maximum of nine or ten.
Action: To be agreed at meeting on the 29th of September.
Q 4: What is the Vision for Castleisland?
A 4: To improve Castleisland and to make it a great place to live, work, visit and do business.
Gateway to Kerry; Kerry Airport; Market town; Excellent Sporting Facilities; Retail-fashion capital of Kerry; Good mix of business; Crag Cave; Selection of great restaurants and public houses; Excellent schools; Great Community Spirit; Good Environment – Town looks well; A good place to do business.
Create an inventory of what’s in the town and what Castleisland’s attributes are.

Lack of industry; High unemployment; Poor facilities for the young people travelling to Killarney to events; Poor cohesion of groups; Location of KCC Compound at key viewing site; CCTV limited; Broadband limited; Rates; Vacant and derelict buildings; Small population; Lack of appropriate accommodation; No taxi rank in the town.
Need to consider incentives for new businesses; Shop local incentives (e.g. book of vouchers); Enhance and develop the early evening economy; Examine employment opportunities for the call centre in Castleisland; Examine the potential to promote tourism and to attract tourist wishing to have a luxury break. Should examine niche markets; Discuss the possibility of re-locating KCC compound with the Council and developing a viewing point/park into the county.


Festivals and events could be co-ordinated by new chamber alliance, for example: Craft fair; Christmas festival; Summer Parade; Trade weekend; Need to promote the town more and develop packages to ‘sell’ Castleisland; Create a specific Facebook page/app to collectively market Castleisland – could link into an events calendar; Promote social enterprise in Castleisland; Night-time restaurant; Community shop; Canopies on shop fronts; Designated area for camper vans; Should consider branding Castleisland; Improve signage – directing people to Castleisland; Create a proper viewing point of the County in Castleisland; Look at getting Castleisland designated as a European Project; Further develop walks and trails; Potential to be a luxury break destination.


Other towns in particular, Killarney and Tralee; Manor Shopping Centre, Tralee; Poor nightlife.

Next Meeting is scheduled for 7.30pm on Tuesday, September 29th in the River Island Hotel