We are all Model ambassadors now
COUNTY councillors were hit with a blizzard of statistics as they reviewed progress on 'Positioning Wexford for the Upturn' when community/enterprise official Amanda Byrne addressed them last week.
The ' Positioning' report was issued amidst much fanfare in May 2010, striking a defiantly optimistic note in the midst of recessionary gloom. Ms. Byrne remained very much upbeat two weary years on – and she had the figures ready to flash up on screen and to support her positive frame of mind:
200,000: browsers logged on last Christmas to look at the 'High Winds' video promoting Wexford on the world wide web. The councillors were given a tonic treat in mid meeting as the production was played in full, with Wallis Bird in fine voice on the sound track. The Galbally singer's vocals 'Oh Life I Love You to My Bones' had the feet tapping around the chamber while images of cosy pubs, horses on beaches and operatic fireworks delighted the eye for one minutes and 26 entertaining seconds;
960: the followers that Wexford County Council had on Twitter at the last count. Now, 960 may not be so terribly many – Jedward have at least half a million – but officials are working on jacking up interest as part of their internet drive, which is steamrolling forward on several fronts. There's Facebook too, of course and then...
200,000: hits on www.wexford.ie. The county website has more delights to offer than an Indonesian royal banquet, more links than a suit of chain mail all promoting the brand 'Wexford – so old, so new' with its Flintstone style typeface. And, for the more serious minded browser, there's www.wexfordmeansbusiness.ie complete with testimonials from some of the big hitters in the likes of Zurich Insurance, Waters Technologies and BNY Mellon all hailing the county as a great place to set up an enterprise;
24: theatres across the United States of America, all venues where tenor Michael Londra not only sang with his customary aplomb. He also made sure that everyone who turned up to hear him was given a leaflet about his native county and urged to visit Wexford as soon and as often as possible. At last we have found the answer to Donegal's Daniel O'Donnell building up goodwill that money could scarcely buy.
Back in 2010, the compilers of 'Positioning Wexford for the Upturn' identified five areas to be addressed if Wexford is to haul itself out of the economic mire. The five were tourism, finance, food, health/life sciences and construction. On the evidence provided by Amanda Byrne, the great remaining hope among the five is tourism.
Finance is flat-lining. Food producers all do their own thing. Construction has been nuked. And the best that the ever optimistic Amanda could offer under the heading of health/life sciences was a mention of 25 recruits being taken on by ABT Medical – good news but not enough to put a significant dent in Wexford's horribly lengthy dole queue.
Which leaves the tourism. It seems that Wexford needs to become more like Kerry, for example. Well, if our footballers can do it, why not the rest of us? Where they have Dingle, we have The Hook, recently voted the world's best lighthouse. Where they have the Ring of Kerry, we have the Bull Ring, the New Ross Ring Road and a team of hurlers heading for the Christy Ring Cup if they do not buck up.
We may all prepare to butter sandwiches and switch on the kettle for the cause. At their meeting last week, the councillors responded with a will. Keith Doyle pointed to the potential of battlefield tourism, especially among our military minded friends and relatives in the United States. Pat Cody wanted to see the French lured to Enniscorthy to see where stage two of Tour de France 1998 started. Padge Reck waxed enthusiastic about the delights of cemeteries.
It is hard to imagine that the grave-stones of Johnstown Castle could be corner-stones in Wexford's economic revival but we may have little alternative but to play that card for all it is worth. Garden trails, the Commodore Barry festival, hiking routes and putting parish records on to computer for amateur genealogists will also count.
Amanda Byrne seemed to take great comfort from the fact that Fáilte Ireland now has an executive – Tara Carey is her name – dedicated to the promotion of Wexford.
The Twitter and the web-sites and all those brochures distributed to Michael Londra fans will also have a part to play along with every Wexford resident who encourages tourists to come and have a look around. Get ringing, get writing, get emailing pronto.
We are all Model ambassadors now. It may be our only chance.