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Concerns over Mayo’s readiness for summer

News

Edwin McGreal

Mayo County Council have not done enough to cater for the numbers visiting parts of the county this summer.
That’s according to Cllr Paul McNamara, who said Achill is expecting one of its busiest summers, which was certainly in evidence this bank holiday weekend, but argues the council have not adapted accordingly.
He brought up many of the issues at last week’s West Mayo Municipal District meeting and reiterated them over the weekend.
As well as issues regarding wild camping in our lead story, Cllr McNamara said there are issues around bins, public toilets and lifeguarding.
“Mayo County Council should have a plan in place but I can’t see one,” he told The Mayo News.  
“I asked them to take on extra staff. Anytime you are going to be busier than usual, you take on extra staff. I think a lot of this comes back to a urban/rural divide. There will be a plan for Westport but no one seems to care about a plan for Achill.
“The reality is that a large amount of people will create litter and the council should be putting more staff in place.
“This is going to be one of the busiest summers ever for tourism in the parish of Achill. It shouldn’t be a surprise; last year was a really busy summer and this year will be as busy, if not busier.
“My fear is that if something goes terribly wrong and people have a bad experience in the parish, our good name in Achill will be dragged through the gutter and that will have serious consequences for our tourism sector,” he said.

Lack of lifeguards
Cllr McNamara also expressed his concerns over the fact that only three of Achill’s five Blue Flag beaches will be lifeguarded this summer.
“Lifeguards started at the weekend but in only three of our five Blue Flag beaches. There will be lifeguards in Keel, Keem and Silver Strand in Dugort but no lifeguards in Dooega and Golden Strand in Dugort.
“I’ve raised this before and there’s never been more of a need for a lifeguard in all the beaches as we saw last summer that all beaches in Achill were exceptionally busy because of the nature of that summer and this year will be no different,” he added.
At last week’s meeting, council officials said they were limited by budgetary constraints but Cllr McNamara took issue with that.  
“I never heard such codswallop in all my life. We’re talking about just 12 weeks. If we can’t budget for a period of time like that in Achill, what are we at?
“We welcome the tourists but we have to be able to provide the supporting infrastructure.
“We are expecting one of our busiest ever tourist seasons and the council seem to be carrying on as normal, as if there’s not a surge of visitors because of Covid. Tell us the plan. I can’t see one,” he said.
“The Government cannot stress enough that we need to enjoy an outdoor summer. Surely then they should ensure budgets for catering for an outdoor summer are not an issue. There should be no issue in terms of providing proper facilities,” he stated.

North Mayo concerns
Meanwhile concerns around public toilets and litter abound in North Mayo too. Anne-Marie Flynn, Manager of Mayo North Tourism, said they have already seen issues.
She said from speaking to hoteliers in the past week, they are expecting a ‘strong summer’ in Ballina and the wider north Mayo area.
“There is a serious issue in the town with bins not being emptied enough at weekends,” she told The Mayo News.
“If bins are overflowing, it flies in the face of what we are trying to do in attracting people to the area. We get at least a call a day from someone wanting to know where they can go to the toilet.
“Technically there’s no public toilets in the town. Civic buildings like the council offices, the Jackie Clarke museum, the Arts Centre and our office are available but that’s only during office hours, Monday to Friday.
“There’s two Portaloos at the Quay in Ballina as well as in Kilcummin and Downpatrick Head but none in the town centre. So in the evenings and weekends, there’s no access to toilets in the town centre. Businesses would have filled that need in the past but there’s a reluctance there now too with Covid,” she said.
In Westport, any outdoor drinking, encouraged by the government message of an outdoor summer, comes into conflict with local by-laws which prohibits outdoor drinking.
“Gardaí are getting calls about outdoor drinking. It is a breach of the local by-laws and people are unsure but it would appear what has been enacted by government with regard to outdoor eating and drinking supersedes this,” said Cllr Christy Hyland.