Economic Forum – An Afternoon of Inspiration – What Now?

Members of Castleisland Chamber Alliance with guests at a pre-forum photo session at the River Island on Saturday afternoon. Front from left: Patricia Walsh, chairperson chamber alliance; Suzanne McElligott, speaker; Miriam O’Callaghan, moderator; Orla Burke and Liz Shanahan, speakers. Back from left: Mark McElligott and Jeremy Burke, chamber alliance with speakers: Micheál O’Donoghue, David Walsh, Stephen Reidy, Con Lynch and John Brosnan. ©Photograph: John Reidy
The day of the forum. The River Island Hotel was the setting for Saturday’s economic forum. ©Photograph: John Reidy

If it’s OK for us, as individuals, to declare that we’re not OK – and it’s strongly recommended by health professionals that we do just that, then it’s surely OK for us to say that our town is not OK and that it’s caught or is catching all the ailments bedeviling rural Ireland today.

Great Place to do Business

History has it that a ruffian by the name of Geoffrey de Marisco first earmarked Castleisland as a great place to do business. And he proved it by building a castle here and a moat around it for safety’s sake. That was in 1226.

By his actions he gave the town its name and it grew in stages out of this bloody beginning.


There were times when the town didn’t do as well as at other times. These were when the locals couldn’t see eye to eye.

When they did, the improvements were palpable – even in the reading about them – and more so after Richard Griffiths came through the town with his road building scheme – for his own reasons of course – but he came and left – by road.

Probably the Finest

Saturday’s economic forum was, probably, the finest show organised here by the 2015 formed Castleisland Chamber Alliance.

Children might argue that their Halloween night at The Market House last year was better. Maybe they’re right – but that’s an age thing.

Moderated by a self declared Kerry woman, Miriam O’Callaghan and launched by Castleisland Chamber Alliance Chairperson, Patricia Walsh, the event drew a greater than expected audience of interested locals, onlookers and others.

Enthused and Inspired

Listening to the invited speakers one couldn’t help feeling enthused and inspired.

They all – with the exception of North Kerry man, Con Lynch – drew vital, formative years experience from family and friends and businesses in the Castleisland area – before they left and became successful at what they do.

Being invited to address this event was an unspoken but recognised mark of success and admiration for what the guest speakers have achieved at home and in various parts of the world.

Firms Basing Here

And they all assured the locals they left behind them that Castleisland is as good a place as any other when it comes to firms and services basing themselves here.

We were advised to look around us and see what’s missing, where our strengths lie, where available, zoned industrial land might be lying idle. We were prompted not to underestimate the power of a good idea and the belief to follow it through.

Quality of Life

Old Geoffrey de Marisco had all he wanted here and he strengthened his empire from what he found around him. There were copious amounts of good land, water, stone and timber – all the trappings of empire strengthening at the time.

Several of the speakers enthused about the quality of life here – the lack of hustle of traffic and the fact that people know each other and the willingness of people to help.

Ask Con Lynch about the neighbourliness of his base on Barrack Street – from which his company services the needs of the animal feed producing firms of half the world.

Spirited Away

Castleisland’s legendary Gateway to Kerry status has been spirited away by the building and opening of the N22 bypass in October 2010.

Its health is ailing from the same draughts and chilly winds which are blowing with devastating consequences through almost every town of its size throughout the country.

Market Town Reputation

Its Market Town reputation is greatly diminished and the alarming number of empty houses and business premises on Main Street and on several of the side streets stand testament to that.

People do not want to be seen or heard speaking out about what they see from inside the windows of their own shops.

“You wouldn’t be thanked for it” one business person said recently as she bemoaned the downturn.

But that’s happening everywhere. Culturally, spiritually and sportingly we’re as good and better than the best – thank you very much.

But we need an extra hand on the tiller – a shoulder at the wheel.

Buoyant Frame of Mind

I left the River Island Hotel on Saturday evening in a buoyant frame of mind. In fairness to the chamber alliance they picked their people well and their people did more that anyone could have expected of them.

As I got into my car in the old railway yard, a woman asked me how did the meeting go.

I told her of the uplifting nature of the afternoon and how the speakers may well have reignited the spark of a new dawn.

What are They Going to Do Now?

And she asked me: What are they (the chamber alliance) going to do about the town now.

All I could say is that we’d have to wait and see and hope. But it was an inspiring start though.

The event was filmed in its entirety by local videographer, Elaine Prendiville and I’m sure she will have highlights on some platform or other soon.

It will be worth watching for anyone with an interest in Castleisland and its future development.

The Speakers in Order

The speakers addressed the event in the following order: John Brosnan, Co-Founder and C.E.O. Netfort; Stephen Reidy, C.I.O. Three Ireland; Suzanne McElligott, C.E.O. of IAB Ireland and Bord Member of Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland; Con Lynch, C.E.O. Compound Feed Engineering; Orla Burke, Partner and EMEA Healtcare Lead. FleishmanHillard; Micheál O’Donoghue, O’Donoghue Ring Hotels; Liz Shanahan, Member of the Global Irish Economic Forum and current London Kerry Person of the Year and David Walsh, Group CEO, Netwatch.

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