The Battle of Kinsale

A couple of months ago a few friends in Cork city got to talking abouth the Old Head of Kinsale and how the public was denied access by the new owners. We resolved something had to be done and from there the idea of a peoples picnic emerged.

The Old Head of Kinsale less than ten miles outside the historic town itself has been enjoyed for generations by strollers, birdwatchers, naturalists, picnicers, rockclimbers, fishing enthusiasts, amateur archaeologists, generally everyone who has ever been there has found some benefit. It is a beautiful head land stretching from a narrow neck of land guarded by a ruined castle and sheer cliffs to a spectaculaar lighthouse perched on cliffs at the very edge of the world. I know virtually no-one in Cork who has not walked this headland such is its popularity.

A few years back however this began to change. Some capitalists got the idea that an exclusive golf course would be a good idea for the headland and so it was bought and the process of building the course began. The building of the course itself was bad enough in ecological terms but worse was to come. Stipulated in the planning permission, due to great public pressure, was that public access would be maintained. The owners gradually whittled this away, firstly by denying access during construction for 'safety reasons'. Then when construction was finished they simply shut the gates and argued successfully in the High court that walking and golfing were incompatible.

On the golf course

On the golf course

The Old Head of Kinsale golf course is exclusive, a round of golf costs £194 the most expensive green fee in Ireland. Most of its patrons stay in Killarney and travel to Kinsale by chauffered cars or helicopter, there being no five star hotels in Kinsale. It is a playground for the rich, nicknamed "Little America" locally for the predominance of rich overweight american golfers.

There were mumblings of dissent some legal action but the owners were being lulled into a false sense of security as the anger over the closed gate is palpable amongst corkonians and further afield.

On July 1st the first peoples picnic was held. Though we had postered and emailed, talked and argued you never know until the day what is going to happen. The loose group organising the event had specifically decided that we would just facilitate a picnic and argue for non violence nothing else, all decisions would be taken by those attending on the day not by us or any ginger group. Feedback was really good I don't recall an event that has struct such a cord in a long time.

The day was the hottest of the year so far so shorts t-shirts and sun block were the order of the day. The local Evening Echo had given some advance publicity and the Kinsale Residents Association had announced their support, this was important as we had trouble getting in contact. Arriving outside the gates it was clearly going to be a success, picnicers were arriving in groups and all around the open ground people were setting out picnics with friends and family. A few musicians were playing and everyone was very relaxed. After awhile a few small groups of people spontaneously infiltrated through the wire topped walls and were escorted out. The security were a bit tetchy. Talk then began of a need to stage a mass entrance onto the course. This was canvassed amongst the picnicing groups and it was made clear that each person could make up their own minds what role they wanted. Some would climb the wall, others proceed to the gate and others just picnic and observe. At 4.00pm we rushed the walls around 100 people flowed unimpeded onto the course apart from two or three over enthusiastic plain clothes Gardai resistance was non existent and they gave up when the realised the sheer numbers they were dealing with.

At the security gates

At the security gates

It was glorious we walked the Old Head as we had for generations men, women and children and dogs of course, laughing at the indignation of the outraged golfers, basking in the sunshine and lead occasionally by a fiddler. A mass meeting was held outside the Lighthouse and a decision taken to return again on the 29th of July. The common people had taken the matter into their own hands and won a famous victory, knowing only too well however that the struggle had just begun.

So if you are looking for something to do on the 29th of July come down to the Old Head for a picnic at 2.00pm and if you can play an instrument bring it along, some food and lots of goodwill.

James Mc Barron just another face in the crowd

****************************************************** OLD HEAD OF KINSALE FOR ALL PEOPLE! ******************************************************   Open Picnic to Reclaim The Old Head of Kinsale   Sunday, July 29th 2 pm - 6 pm   Bring picnic, food and attitude!   Music, face painting, arts, food and fun.   Meet at 2 pm at entrance at Old Head of Kinsale OR Meet at 12 pm at City Library, Cork (for car pool/ transport to Kinsale).   From the posters: "The Old Head of Kinsale has been enjoyed for generations by walkers, fisherpersons, rockclimbers and birdwatchers. Now it is now closed to the public by the owners of the new exclusive golf course. We want it back!"

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