Des Murphy, Chairperson of the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership Scheme has put his fingers to the keyboard to give his thoughts on the steps to recovery from coronavirus in the Ring of Gullion tourism sector.

We print his thoughts in full below.

Time for Change

The global coronavirus has had profound consequences around the world, from different working practices, benefits for the environment, adverse mental health effects, physical health benefits, industry halting and much more. Newry, Mourne and Down hasn’t escaped the negative effects of the coronavirus, but with some time to stop and think we should be preparing for the reopening of our communities, our businesses and our wonderful AONB. 

This time out has allowed me to chat to some fantastic people from around our area, and in this open letter I would like to outline some interesting ideas on how the people of Newry, Mourne and Down can benefit from being prepared for reopening – it’s a time for change, we shouldn’t rush back to normal, but making improvements and providing a sustainable way of life for our children and grandchildren to be able to live in the landscape we all love.

2020 started off as an exciting year, the three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Newry, Mourne and Down were being restructured, new young people were being invited to take a role in making decisions in the areas, the Atlantic CultureScape project was working with our tourism businesses to create sustainable intangible cultural heritage experiences, the Mourne Gullion Strangford aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark was ready for evaluation. 

But when lockdown hit us, everything stopped. Many of the great initiatives across the council came to a standstill, an industry close to my own heart was disseminated, and it’s going to be a long road to recovery. However, we have such a solid foundation to build on; Killeavy Castle Estate is one more recent addition to our ‘crown of jewels’, business like Bluebell Lane are going to be integral in bringing domestic tourism back to the area. 

Love of our Place

We all need to shout about how much we love our places we live in and enjoy; I have discovered so many new places since lockdown began. So, it’s up to us to get on social media, contact our press, take part in training, support positive initiatives, shop local, support local services in order to get on the road to recovery. 

The Mourne Gullion Strangford UNESCO Global Geopark is a grassroots initiative and I believe that if we all get behind it, take part in it, connect to others involved in it, it can be a platform for us all to thrive in Newry, Mourne and Down. The principles of the AONB and the Geopark provide a sustainable way forward for our tourism and heritage industries. 

Local People Led

Over the past five years I have been lucky enough to have been involved in two great projects; the Ring of Gullion Annual Lúnasa Festival and the Ring of Gullion Traditional Arts Partnership. Both these projects are managed by the people involved. 

Des Murphy
Des Murphy

The Lúnasa Festival model is such an exciting model that we should be rolling out across the district. The festival runs on a small budget from NMDDC, but it enthuses local people like no other local festival, and it provides better value for money and return in investment than many of the bigger festivals on the island – Should we not be replicating this success?

The Ring of Gullion Traditional Arts Partnership is such a strong model for success, 230 young people are now involved in this partnership, and they have made links all over the island of Ireland and in Catalonia, Senegal, Singapore and Iran. 

Giving members of groups the power to make their own decisions is a model for success – should we not now be encouraging our politicians to give over more decision-making powers? 

Build on Success

In summary, the coronavirus pandemic has had uncountable negatives consequences across the world and in NMDDC. However, I think we should seize this opportunity to build on the successes we have made, the things we have learned, and grassroots initiatives. We should be telling people all round the world what we are doing. Showing people how much we have to offer, we have the people, the landscape and the will power to be global leaders in sustainable tourism. Also, the cultural heritage, biodiversity – and simply good friendly and welcoming hosts that enjoy the criac, and the music. Let’s get behind each other, support each other, and build on our successes. 

Des Murphy

Ring of Gullion LPS (Chairperson)

Failte Ireland registered Tour Guide

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