More marinas should be built in Donegal a county dependant on tourism for one in eight jobs says Fanad Senator Niall Blaney
More marinas should be developed in Donegal to support a county that relies on tourism for one in eight jobs, it’s been suggested.
Donegal, Derry and the border counties suffer from a severe ‘infrastructure deficit’ as a result of years of underinvestment despite together being home to a population of around 500,000 people, Fianna Fáil Senator Naill Blaney said this week.
The Fanad native made the comments during a debate on tourism in the Seanad.
“We were affected by the Troubles over the years. While tourism is somewhat of a commodity in Donegal, it is nothing like what it could be because during those decades of the Troubles we were cut off.”
He continued: “When I was a child travelling through the North the roads were a great thing; now, they are just bottlenecks. That is an idea of the infrastructure deficit we have in the whole north west.
“Counties like Donegal, Derry, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Sligo and Leitrim have a general population of 500,000 people. As far as getting our slice of the cake is concerned, we are nowhere near where we should be in terms of roads and tourism,” he said.
During the debate Labour Senator Mark Wall pointed to how heavily dependent Donegal is on tourism which has been decimated over the past year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“So many rural counties depend on tourism employment. Kerry with 18% employment, Donegal with 13% and Waterford with 12% are examples of the huge percentage of jobs depending on this sector. Simply put, if we do not try to save the greatest amount of these jobs, then rural Ireland and its communities will be decimated,” said Senator Wall.
Senator Blaney said Donegal’s natural beauty is an undertapped resource.
“I come from a peninsula called Fanad, which is roughly the size of Dublin city outside the M50. We have some of the most fabulous beauty spots the Minister has ever seen.
“The beach near where I am from was voted the second most beautiful in the world in 1994 by The Times. Fanad Lighthouse was voted the second most beautiful in the world in recent years. There are many other attractions across Donegal.
“It has the highest cliffs in Europe and the most northerly point in Malin. The area where I am from on the Fanad Peninsula does not even have a hotel,” he said.
He suggested developing more marinas to encourage investment in the county.
The idea - he told the Oireachtas - was inspired by conversations with his Fanad compatriot, Hugh Friel, a former chair of Tourism Ireland and a former CEO of the agri-food giant, the Kerry Group.
“He has taken me to Kerry and shown me the different areas where they built marinas. Anywhere that a marina was built, other infrastructure fell into place afterwards.
“Over the 20 years of the national development plan, Project Ireland 2040, we must build marinas around the coast. Everything does not have to be built tomorrow but we must make a start. There is significant potential in doing this and it is an opportunity to look after smaller businesses and incentivise start-ups.”