Feature – Sustainable Community Project in Lisdoonvarna

Feature – Sustainable Community Project in Lisdoonvarna


By Theresa O’Donoghue

Local voluntary groups are working hard to improve our ecological sustainability on every level.

In the fourth article in this series, Theresa O’Donoghue writes about her recent work with students in Lisdoonvarna to explore environmentally sustainable local businesses.

Students from Mary Immaculate secondary school in Lisdoonvarna embarked on a project to help people visualise a sustainable economy supporting the local community with businesses that could be opened in Lisdoonvarna. They explored what can work in a local economy in Ireland and the broader issue of the Sustainable Development Goals during a trip to the Eco Village Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary.

When they returned to Lisdoonvarna the students set about creating the Place of Possibilities – a visual project depicting businesses that could thrive locally while addressing global issues. Very often the challenges we face can seem too difficult to address, but if you can visualise solutions you can take steps to make positive changes.

They worked on 4 “shop” fronts – a bakery, ecotourism office, food co-op and a community bank. The timeframe given was 2030 so all the “businesses” were tasked with visualising what they could possibly be like in 2030. These shop fronts were then installed in the Town Hall and a public launch event was organised where strategic people, including policy makers for economic development, were invited.

Guests included Fergal Smyth, Moy community farm; Sarah Clancy, Clare Public Participation Network; Padraic McElwee Local Enterprise Office; Aine Martin, Hotel Doolin; Burren Ecotourism Network; Karen Foley, Clare County Council Environment Section and Leonard Cleary, A/Director of Service for Rural Development at Clare County Council.

The students explained the reasoning behind their project and the sustainable development goals they addressed. These included Climate Action, Sustainable Communities and Responsible Consumption and Production. The official guests were highly complimentary of the students vision and work. They all gave their feedback to the students and advised them on what support structures are available in order to realise their vision.

By building and installing “shop fronts” to represent sustainable local enterprises in Lisdoonvarna, the students created a tangible manifestation of a vision for the area. It raised awareness in our rural community about environmental challenges and sustainable development, in the hope of empowering people to take action.


This project was coordinated by Lisdoonvarna Tidy Towns, funded by the European Union through ALDA (Association of Local Democracy Agencies) under the LADDER programme – Local Authorities as Drivers for Development Education and Awareness Raising. It is administered in Ireland by Donegal County Council who have been very helpful with the process. We are very grateful for the opportunity to bring this innovative project to Lisdoonvarna.

Theresa O’Donohoe is the PPN (Public Participation Network) representative on Clare Economic SPC (Strategic Policy Committee) and co-ordinator of the Clare Environmental Network.