‘It is awful to see: Nobody on the road or in the shop’
IT’S not a sentiment you hear at the cash register every day.
But in thanking a customer for not just their business on one particular afternoon last week but for their support in general, Philip Horan’s deep gratitude revealed much about the impact of the N23 road closure on trade in Castleisland.
The owner of XL Horan’s on the Killarney Road has watched as traffic at his ordinarily thriving forecourt slowed to a trickle following the closure of the N23 road between Castleisland and Farranfore - in a scheme that got underway in May with an end-of-August estimated time of completion.
Businesses on the Killarney Road end of the town appear particularly hard hit and traders there are deeply frustrated at losing business at their busiest time of the year in what is a bumper summer for tourism.
Philip said his business has been extremely quiet since the closure: “It is absolutely awful; there is no footfall. There has been no traffic whatsoever since construction began.
“We usually have a lot of people coming from Farranfore and Currow, but not any more. Drivers of business vehicles coming from Killarney through Farranfore in the mornings come here for diesel, but it takes them 25 minutes extra to come out to me now due to the closure. They can’t continue to take a route that long, so I will lose them as customers.
“In a town like this, it is essential to shop local. If everyone did, it would work out, but people can’t really do that now. We’re literally talking about a bridge over a stream that’s causing this; it shouldn’t be the way.
“The businesses in this town are a vital part of it. It was ensured that the fish were looked after by not doing the construction during January, February and March, and health and safety was looked after; everything was taken into consideration except the effects on businesses in the area,” he claimed.
“Long-term, there is a big danger regarding survival. When you lose customers, you will always wonder if you can get them back.”
Philip emphasised how “grateful we are to loyal customers, as they are all that is keeping us going, but losing the business from tourists during this time of year is something you don’t recover from.
“When I was young, we could put down goalposts and kick ball in the middle of the road. We could do that now on the road outside, it’s that quiet.
“There is nobody on the road, and there is no one here in the shop. It is just awful to see.”
Neighbouring business Castle Lighting and Interiors owner Shirley Higgins is also very unhappy with the situation and feels that the negative effect is causing the work to be seen as more hassle than it is worth.
“We’re not depending on locals for business, so we’re really losing out from people not passing through and stopping. People are avoiding Castleisland and going to Tralee instead.”
She feels the end-result of the construction is not worth it as they’ve lost out on business during very important months.
“We can’t do any more promotion for the shop on social media or anything – it costs too much, so we can’t do it while we’re losing business.”
Castleisland Chamber Alliance PRO Jeremy Burke feels the timing could have been much better, but believes the road works are necessary.
“We were late getting the notice about the works. We’ve been in contact but there is not a huge pile we can do about it,” he claimed.
“It is an unfortunate stretch of time during a peak, but it’s a job that needs to be done.
“The Road Design Office chose this time, as earlier in the year was not suitable.
“In terms of business being lost, it is hard to tell the impact this is having, but there is no doubt it probably is having an effect. The town is still accessible, although the diversions are not ideal.
“We don’t have a choice but to let it happen; at least they’re on schedule with the construction.”
His advice for those who are worried about their business is to continue getting their name out there, adding:
“Hopefully the works can be done in a shorter time-frame than planned”. He feels that the businesses in the area are strong and will continue to thrive.
Kerry County Councillor Bobby O’Connell said that all involved in the works are happy with the pace of the construction and that the weather has had a significant impact on this progress.
His main concern if for both residents of the area and the businesses in Castleisland.
He said that the “pressure will be kept on to get the job done as quickly as possible.”
A spokesperson for the Kerry National Road Design Office meanwhile said the scheme is on schedule and they hope to continue with this pace, weather permitting.
The N23 Castleisland to Farranfore road is closed from traffic since May 24 until August 2018 to facilitate the rebuilding of Dysert Bridge.
Philip Horan of XL Horan’son the Killarney Road in Castleisland waiting for customers. He said his business has been badly hit since the Farranfore road closed down for the three-month resurfacing scheme that is currently underway.