The proposed Marine Park/Páirc na Mara, east of Cill Chiaráin village, could be the "last chance to turn the tide" for an area which has long suffered high unemployment and emigration.
This is the view of those from the Carna/Cill Chiaráin area of Connemara, who have formed a support group to campaign for approval of the Páirc na Mara project. The group says the marine park could lead to the "revitalisation of the area".
Páirc na Mara is planned as a state of the art, low carbon, marine innovation park, located on a greenfield site in Cill Chiaráin. The proposed park will encompass marine related activities, and where productive sector enterprises, public bodies, State development agencies, and the research community "will work together...to maximise the development potential of the marine sector in the region".
In April, An Bord Pleanála overturned planning permission for the park, which had been granted by the Galway County Council, for the construction of an administrative building on the site at Cill Chiaráin – citing concerns over the effect such a development would have on the local environment. However, Údarás na Gaeltachta said it would be seeking permission for the “substantive part” of the development within months.
Údarás CEO, Micheál Ó hÉanaigh, has said the application for the larger project will be submitted to the Galway County Council in the near future, and the body, as part of a five year development plan for west Connemara, has highlighted the marine park as a key part of its strategy.
Owing to the situation, the Carna/Cill Chiaráin marine park supporters have moved to raise awareness and political backing for the project. Support has come from Independent Galway West TD, Catherine Connolly, chair of the Dáil Committee on the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands. She has told the Carna/Cill Chiaráin deputation that she was "impressed by the comprehensive plan" for the park and that such initiatives "are needed to sustain Gaeltacht areas".
Aire don Ghaeilge, don Ghaeltacht agus do na hOileáin, Seán Kyne, has spoken about the "urgent need" for employment in the area, and told the deputation that he also "strongly supports" the project.
The park is also included in the Government’s strategy to develop more jobs in rural areas. Minister Kyne told the deputation that "every effort" would be made to hold on to the €2 million fund the Government set aside as an initial boost for the marine park.
Further meetings between the supporters and ministers are planned.