From top: Protestors in Skibbereen opposing plans for a plastics factory manufacturing polymer pellets in the town last February; Dan Boyle
When our family moved from Chicago to Cork, my Dad stayed there for a further five years. He worked as a merchant seaman on the Great Lakes. His intent to build up a nest egg.
During this period we would have see him for a few weeks in and around Christmas time.
At other times we would record cassette tapes we sent to the US/Canada to let him know we were thinking of him and missing him.
As a 10 year old I would have performed my party piece, which found it way onto one such cassette. It was the somewhat mawkish yet still somehow anthemic famine song, ‘Skibbereen’.
The open lines of the song continues to be evocative for me, precisely because of how it came to exist in my life.
“Oh Father dear I often hear you speak of Erin’s isle”
Several verses later while ranging from the near piteous to the near militant, the song ends with a rallying cry ‘Revenge for Skibbereen’.
I think of the song as a link in my relationship with my Dad. It has also given me something of an affinity with the town of Skibbereen.
The place that suffered the worst ravages of the Potato Famine has lot going for it now.
The gateway to the glories of West Cork, the town is surrounded by a necklace of incredibly beautiful coastal villages. Add to those locations the wonderful Lough Hyne, and you have a region that compares with any of the visually stunning parts of the World.
West Cork isn’t without the economic difficulties other regions experience. Despite many persistent obstacles, great efforts have been made to make Skibbereen more economically diverse.
The development of a globally rated local food culture has been part of that process. As has been the establishment The Ludgate Hub, named after a turn of the 20th century computing pioneer, Percy Ludgate, a Skibbereen native, who developed an analytical machine.
This Centre is attempting to provide a template for IT companies to exist and thrive in small towns in Ireland.
Into this mix someone somewhere has decided that Skibbereen needs an industrial component to its economic development.
Over the past year a proposal to construct a plastics factory in the town has been making its way through the planning system.
There has been practically no support for this factory in the town. It is felt it is in no way complementary, and is thought to be openly compromising, of the economic development that has been occurring there.
The opposition has turned into justified anger as planners in Cork County Council, and subsequently Bord Pleanala, have flexibly interpreted planning regulations so that the plastics company has not been obliged to provide an environmental impact statement, or seek an air pollution licence.
Last week Bord Pleanala chose to approve the application, ignoring the need for such safeguards. Tonight another in a series of well attended public meetings will be held in Skibbereen, to consider what further opposition will be made. Details here.
Time to add a few more verses to that song.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle
Pic via The Southern Star