7 December 2012 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Co Monaghan is often perceived as impoverished in relation to other parts of the country when it comes to its attractions as a tourist destination.
It is an obstacle of perception that those whose livelihoods are to a significant degree dependent on attracting visitors to the county have to labour hard to overcome – and it is one that is founded on a rather narrow interpretation of what appeals to the tourist market.
In one respect, however, we have riches around us that few other areas of the country can lay claim to – our proliferation and variety of angling waters.
There are 2,216 hectares of lakes in Co Monaghan and 1,400 kilometres of river – riches in abundance.
Yet the numbers of visiting anglers have declined in recent years, possibly because a degree of marketing complacency set in that failed to respond promptly or thoroughly enough to the rise in Continental competition for the business of a new generation of fishermen with different preferences and tastes.
Some encouraging recent evidence has emerged of a concerted fightback by local angling and tourism interests for a recovery of their market share and the past months have seen major fishing contests with international dimensions once again hosted on waters in Castleblayney and North Monaghan.
The visit of Minister for State Fergus O’Dowd TD to Castleblayney on Monday to launch the enhancement of angling facilities at Lough Muckno under a Rural Investment Initiative driven by the Castleblayney South Armagh Partnership marks a significant moment in that renaissance.
Muckno, and the necklace of waters bedecking the wider Castleblayney and Ballybay area, has always been a powerful magnet for the overseas angler – but the latest developments there take prescient account of the need to bring the ancillary facilities at such locations up to the prevailing international competitive standards if their remunerative potential is to be maximised.
There is an instructive dimension too in the cross-Border element of this project that the wider tourism blueprint for this region could beneficially incorporate.
Despite the opportunities opened up by the ongoing peace process and the European funding available for trans-boundary ventures, cross-Border tourism projects are still relatively few in number and untapped in imaginative potential.
Angling can lead the way in this regard – the attractions of the Slieve Gullion and Lough Muckno waterways that make them such compatible twins from a fishing perspective are surely to be found in many other parts of our county and its neighbours.
These natural linkages waiting to be more fully developed surely deserve some systematic attention from our other cross-Border bodies, which will discover in the CASA Partnership initiative a template that is readily transferable.
Co Monaghan angling still has some problems to address.
The significant threat posed by invasive species to local waters has come into sharper focus in recent years having perhaps been underestimated for a time, and work remains to be done to strengthen identification and prevention in this regard.
While the extent of the problem of overfishing has proven a hot topic of debate at local level, with contrasting assessments of its impact and extent, a perception of depletion has been created which, exaggerated or not, has had some adverse impact on the perception of Co Monaghan as an angling destination in the markets it once enjoyed a considerable share of.
This can only be addressed by focused marketing strategies, which must also take account of the changed profile of the European angler and the fact that a great many more destinations across the Continent are now competing vigorously for his and her presence.
A good deal of work remains to be done, but Monday’s event in Castleblayney shows that those shaping the future of angling in this county and region are heading in the right direction, at the right time – cognisant perhaps of the much quoted exhortation of Shakespeare’s Brutus that: There is a tide in the affairs of men/Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune…”

The content of Wednesday’s Budget will by now be well canvassed and digested – and although the detail emerged too late for us to editorialise upon in any depth here, it is safe to say that Minister Noonan will have delivered at least the full portion of additional austerity that the country was bracing itself for.
Readers will not need our attempt at analysis in any event – there will be an overkill of that elsewhere, and they will know only too well from the perspective of their personal circumstances just how the measures announced will translate in practical terms.
Most of us will be facing the prospect of additional privation in some aspect of our means – and will have to cope not just with the financial consequences, but also with the impact on our mood and spirit.
There is never any mention of this spiritual toll in the document the Minister produces from his briefcase – and precious little of it in the clamorous aftermath of comment and criticism.
Yet the depletion of national morale is perhaps the greatest obstacle to the recovery which we are promised as the ultimate reward for all the misery we are having to put up with.
It is very difficult to endure the current phase of life in Ireland with equanimity – the feeling that the weak and vulnerable are carrying a disproportionate burden for the greed and incompetence of an affluent elite is widespread and hard to dispel.
It is equally difficult to feel any sense of personal control over the situation when the nation’s destiny has so evidently slipped out of the hands of those who govern it – we are all vulnerable to feelings of negativity and despair.
Yet regardless of what was contained in Wednesday’s Budget, we should never forget that we all responsible for our own personal physical and mental well-being, and too much bad news is not good for us.
So our humble advice is merely this – don’t let the Budget grind you down.
In fact, turn off the television or the radio or the computer and put down the newspaper if you start to get annoyed or depressed.
Burying you head in the sand? Maybe – but enough is enough.
Start that much promised recovery yourself – by taking a break from the Budget blues!

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