Kerry, commonly known as "The Kingdom", is located in South West of Ireland in the province of Munster. With an area of 1,815 sq. miles it is the fifth largest of Ireland's thirty-two Counties. The population of the County as recorded in the 1991 Census is 121,894.
The County contains some of Ireland's most magnificent scenery, a combination of high mountain, low rolling hills, lakes, rivers, bog land, rugged coastline and off-shore islands. The country's highest mountains are to be found in Kerry. It contains all but two of the country's dozen peaks in excess of 3,000 ft. including Ireland's highest, Carrantuohill (3,414 ft.). The rugged hills and mountains are generally found in the south and west of the County, with the central area and northern part comprising relatively fertile pasture land.
The County's location in the South-West of the country, where it is influenced by the North Atlantic Gulf Stream gives it a very mild climate with a high level of rainfall - average 66 ins. per year. The mountainous nature of the County contributes to this, while the rainfall level, in turn contributes to the spectacular nature of the changing landscapes. We have the longest coastline of any Irish County, principally because of the three large peninsulas.
Kerry has traditionally been Ireland's premier tourist County, chiefly because of its spectacular physical features. Killarney and its hinterland is probably one of the best known tourist destinations in Europe. The whole South Kerry area, together with the Dingle Peninsula are also very prominent tourist destinations. Many new visitor attractions have been developed in recent years, particularly in the Tralee area, such as The Geraldine Centre, Kerry County Museum, Blennerville Windmill and Tralee Aqua Dome.
Other visitor attractions are being developed in various locations to add to the already well-known places of interest, such as Muckross House, and Muckross Interpretative Centre, Ardfert Cathedral, Gallarus Oratory, the Siamsa Tíre Theatre, the Skellig Experience and the Great Blasket Island Interpretative Centre,Tarbert Bridewell and Heritage Centre, Dingle Marina and Aquarium, and The Barracks, Caherciveen.
The Golf Courses of Kerry are some of the finest with Ballybunion Old Course recognised as the number one course in the world outside America. In close competition with this are Killarney, Waterville, Barrow, as well as ten other courses scattered all over the County.
If golf is not an interest and walking is, a number of excellent walking routes over the most scenic areas are available in the Kerry Way, Slí Chorcha Duibne and many other equally interesting trips.
Tourism is now the largest industry with over 1.7 million visitors per year and it is an objective to increase visitor numbers to almost 2.2 million by 1998, leading to an estimated income of £250m involving 10,000 jobs.
There is a rich literary tradition, particularly as the northern part, Listowel and its hinterland has produced such distinguished playwrights/authors as John B. Keane, Brendan Kennelly, George Fitzmaurice, Bryan MacMahon and Maurice Walsh. Literary traditions of this area are continuing with Listowel Writer's Week Festival running continuously since 1971. A number of new authors/poets/playwrights has emerged from this area in recent years.
The Rose of Tralee International Festival holds a special place in the lives of so many people who visit Kerry every year. It is the original Gathering connecting the global Irish community in Kerry every August since 1959.
The County also has strong links with the International Film Industry. A number of major films has been filmed on location in the County, particularly in the Dingle area, the best known being perhaps "Ryan's Daughter", "The Playboy of the Western World" and "Far and Away". Major films have been produced based on the works of Kerry authors such as "The Quiet Man", by Maurice Walsh and "The Field" a play of the same title by John B. Keane.
Agriculture is of major importance to the economy, particularly in the central and northern area. The County is essentially one of small farms with dairy farming predominating. We have about 5,000 dairy farmers with herd average of twenty-four cows and an average milk yield of about 800 gallons per cow. About 100 million gallons of milk are produced each year. Much of the manufacturing employment in the County is in the food processing area with the Kerry Group PLC. now being a major international food processing company.
Sheep numbers, at about 500,000 are substantial, while there is a limited amount of cereal growing in the northern part of the County.
Manufacturing industry is a significant contributor to economic development and employment creation. The major employers in this area are, of course, located in the large towns such as Tralee, Killarney, Listowel, Castleisland, Killorglin and so on. In all, manufacturing industry accounts for about 17% of the workforce with small enterprises becoming an increasingly important source of valuable employment.
Forestry is a significant and growing industry with in excess of 25,000 hectares currently planted. Of that figure, about 5,000 is private plantation with the remainder being developed by Coillte.
Fishing and mariculture are very important industries, too, and this is presently a growth sector. Ports such as Dingle, Valentia, Fenit, Maharees, Cromane and Kenmare are among the top twenty-five countrywide in order of value of fish landings. Dingle harbour has been significantly improved over recent years with over £5,000,000 being invested. It has been designated as one of the National Fishery Harbours in the Government's Ports/Harbours Development Plan.
As can be seen from this brief introduction, Kerry is a County with an abundance of richness in culture, heritage and spectacular scenery and amenities. It has attractions both for the residents and the many visitors who come annually, offering a quality of lifestyle that is unrivalled almost anywhere in the world. Kerry County Council is fully committed to serving, enhancing and developing the attractions and amenities of the County for all those who either reside in, work in, or visit the Kingdom. In the following sections of this Report, details will be found of the wide range of services through which the Council endeavours to achieve these objectives.