The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Rural and Community Development visited Dunhill last week to hear about the impressive developments which have taken place within the local community
MANY visitors, including politicians, senior civil servants and members of different community groups, have come to Dunhill in recent years to discuss issues relating to job creation, and in particular, how to encourage an enterprising spirit within communities.On Wednesday last March 28th, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Rural and Community Development attended a working lunch and discussion with local government and business representatives in Dunhill.The committee has recently been discussing the development of remote working opportunities, efforts to improve passenger and freight rail links, and the role of UNESCO Global Geoparks in driving investment and tourism in rural areas.
In Dunhill, Committee Chairman Joe Carey TD, and other members of the committee, discussed the development of the Copper Coast Geopark, the North Quays Development Zone and other economic development matters.Also in attendance were local Senators Paudie Coffey (Fine Gael) and Grace O’Sullivan (Green Party). Importantly, the event provided members of the enterprising and innovative Dunhill community with an opportunity to showcase all that has been achieved in their local area.
Chairman of DFBA (Dunhill, Fenor, Boatstrand & Annestown) Community Enterprises Ltd. Donal Lehane explained that the community was losing a significant percentage of its population in the late 1980s/early1990s.
Many young people had moved to Dublin; the number of teachers at the national school had declined; and the local GAA club was finding it difficult to field full teams.
As a response, members of the local community came together to establish a company aimed at addressing specific needs and set about seeking funding from various sources including the European Union.
The DFBA motto is that “there is no limit to what can be achieved by a community working together” while their mission statement is to “develop our community socially, economically and culturally by harnessing the talents of our people and the resources available”.
Donal outlined the number of jobs which have subsequently been created through the establishment of local enterprises. Many were initially located in incubation units at the Dunhill Ecopark before moving to larger premises elsewhere.The volunteers associated with DFBA Community Enterprises Ltd. continue to work on a number of different projects.
Now, a vibrant atmosphere and a ‘can do’ attitude exist throughout Dunhill. The local school is going from strength to strength and the local hall was recently unveiled after being completed renovated.
Outlining the vision and initiative of the DFBA group, Donal pointed out that local people were conscious of being careful about the environment “even before it became fashionable”.
A perfect example of this can be seen through the success of the Anne Valley Walk.Phase 1 opened in 2013 and proved a huge success with very impressive footfall figures. Phase 2 from Dunhill Castle to Annestown recently opened and has already proved enormously successful also.
Chairman of the Anne Valley Walk Group Willie Moore outlined how the walk developed.A video was shown which showcased the natural beauty of the area and the different wildlife which exists. Willie praised the landowners who had come on board as well as Waterford Leader Partnership and Waterford City & County Council.
“We were pushing an open door with the landowners. We had no problem getting everyone to sign up for Phase 2,” he said. Willie said the footfall figures compare very favourably with other trails throughout the country.
The amenity is viewed as a key tourism offering for Dunhill and the Copper Coast.Tourism is an industry that has been closely examined and nurtured at the Dunhill Multi-Education Centre.Trails Programme Coordinator Helen Kavanagh spoke about the hugely successful educational programmes relating to tourism which are offered at Dunhill.
Graduates have gone on to enjoy success in various fields.
Tourism is key to the success of the area, and Helen outlined the wider opportunities for tourism on the Copper Coast.She believes there has never been a better time to examine the concept of “sustainable tourism development”.“Tourism in Ireland is growing at an unprecedented rate,” she said. “But Waterford and the Copper Coast are not reaching their potential. We’re not getting a bigger slice of the pie but we do have the product that can get us there.”
She continued: “Visitors are amazed at the beauty of our coastline. We have very important natural and built heritage sites and sites of significant conservation value. We have communities with proven strength and drive – communities that can achieve and can continue to achieve on projects of European significance and importance. We can take the money, spend the money and provide the product.”
The Copper Coast Geopark is one of the only community designed and managed Geoparks and a perfect example of what can be achieved when there is community collaboration.Senan Cooke’s name is synonymous with the positive developments which have taken place in Dunhill. He outlined the success of the Cois Cille housing development which was constructed with the aim of keeping locals in the area.In an attempt to attract locals, the houses were not sold to people looking for holiday homes or to let.As Secretary of Dunhill Rural Enterprises Ltd., Senan called on the politicians present to address a number of issues including the provision of broadband.
Not one to sit on his laurels, Senan is passionate about ensuring sustainable jobs are created within the local area. He has been the driving force behind Communities Creating Jobs (CCJ) which is defined as being a national voluntary community enterprise based organisation which has adopted a shared learning approach to job creation.Dunhill Rural Enterprises Ltd. and Carbery Enterprise Group in Skibbereen decided to set up this voluntary national shared learning network where communities could learn from each other, find solutions to problems, replicate best practices, and engage in site visits or any other activities which could help their cause.
The strategy is to save communities from making unnecessary mistakes and to reduce the wastage of valuable resources including time, materials, equipment and funds.