Islands have a unique place in our society. Because of small populations and geographical remoteness, key infrastructure facilities and services are more expensive to support and if dealt with exclusively in relation to the population numbers, crucial services such as schools and health services would disappear from small Islands.
The value of our offshore Islands to our economy is significant and should not be underestimated especially in terms of tourism revenue. For example, figures from Fáilte Ireland show that visits to our Islands by overseas tourists between May and October 2009 were in the region of 295,000 nationally. Indeed the ports from which the off-shore Islands are accessed are amongst our busiest and this is due in no small measure to the existence of the Islands.
But that stretch of water can pose a challenge to daily life on Islands. As has been said “Ferry Services are the public road of Islanders and are the lifeblood of the Islands”. How these are supported and organised should at all times have the needs of the Island population at the core of the service. Inadequate or poorly run services have knock on effects across the entire community.
The pier and harbour areas on Islands and their adjoining mainland are centres of activities for Islands. Boats, Ferries, Goods, Visitors, Islanders and Island Businesses depend on how these areas are organised.
The development of Island life will always depend to a very large extent on the efforts of the Islanders themselves. However, this must involve a partnership with the Mainland Authorities upon which Island life also depends. Their unique position demands a long-term and considered response.
This Strategy seeks to provide a platform for this Partnership and seeks also to support our West Cork Islands to reach their full potential.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of all involved in drawing together this Strategy and, in particular, the very strong Input from the Island people.
Assistant County Manager (West Cork) & Chair of the West Cork Island Interagency Group.