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*Pat Dowling. Photograph: John Mangan

Chief Executive of Clare County Council, Pat Dowling has warned that “difficult decisions” will have to made to help the county recover from COVID-19.

Addressing elected representatives at Monday’s meeting of the local authority, the first to take place since March, Dowling expressed confidence that the county will recover but not without consequences to the Council’s coffers.

“It has been a difficult few weeks for everybody, we’re still on that journey,” he stated. Pat praised all the Council staff for how they have adapted to the challenge posed while he outlined his appreciation with the daily messages of support received from county councillors.

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He said, “the scale and depth of this societal affect is unknown for us all” and referred to statistics which included over 7 million confirmed cases around the world in 200 different countries and over 406,000 deaths, “that is the scale we are dealing with. All our challenges and difficulties must be put in that context”.

Communities of Co Clare have shown “compliance and common sense”, he believed. “Without doubt, the future will be tough. For many, the fear of the unknown consumes them but it is more the fear of the loss of the known, that is the kernel of the matter”.

In terms of the economic impact thus far, Dowling noted that gross domestic product (GDP) was down by over 10%, over 220,000 jobs were lost and 25% unemployment. “It is a picture and a canvass we could never have anticipated at the start of the year”.

Industries such as tourism, hospitality, retail, micro-enterprise, agriculture and FDI investment will be “most impacted”, he anticipated.

As previously reported by The Clare Echo, the local authority is to convene an economic taskforce in the coming weeks that will be headed up by Director of Economic Development, Liam Conneally. This group will include “key leaders” from the public and private sector, the Chief Executive revealed. A tourism taskgroup is also to be established. “The big challenge as well as economy and tourism will be and continues to be the financial stability of Clare County Council”.

“We’re all dealing with all of these challenges across every county, we’re not alone like former crises and depressions we’ve had. Difficult decisions will have to be made, it will be very difficult not to be in a deficit situation this year and in coming years,” the Kilkee resident added.

He concluded with a message of hope, “Come out the other end we shall, maybe not unscathed but we will come out the other end”.

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