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*Photograph: Eamon Ward

St Patrick’s Day parades across Co Clare are to be cancelled following the decision by elected representatives to be postpone the county parade.

Standing orders were suspended at Monday’s meeting as Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) sought the postponement of the Ennis St Patrick’s Day due to the threat of the coronavirus. This came following a risk assessment carried out by the local authority which recommended the move. No opposition to the proposal was voiced within the Council Chamber, instead unanimous support from all party groupings. It is expected all parades across the county will also be postponed.

“This is a very difficult decision but it is the right decision. I ask the people of Clare to remain calm. This is a crisis for our country and the world. We have taken action in the way we could. I ask the people of our county to listen to reliable sources and not to propagate misinformation,” Cllr Colleran Molloy stated. Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) seconded the proposal.

Protecting “vulnerable people” was stressed as a key factor by Cllr Ann Norton (IND). “I wouldn’t like to think that we as a County Council didn’t put something in place that prevents the progression of this virus. I am conscious people will be disappointed with the work involved and work that has gone into this. For the health and safety of the older generation and the most vulnerable of our society that might not be able to fight this virus, it is important that we stand together to show we are united in protecting the people of this county”.

A personal decision had already been made by Cllr Mary Howard to avoid large crowds and decrease her chances of picking up the virus. “We don’t know what we’re dealing with, we’re in uncharted water. When we all heard there was a case in the West of Ireland, we assumed it was Limerick or Galway, little did we know it was over the road”.

Italy’s scenario has pained a clearer picture of what Ireland needs to do, Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) outlined. “The territory is very well chartered, three weeks ago Italy were in the same place, look at reports from Italian medical personnel. We need to do this and we need to do more, it is going to cost something, maybe a lot in the short-term but if we don’t make hard decisions today it is going to cost us everything in the future”.

“People have come to the fore,” Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) stated in calling on the Council to show leadership. The risk of “community transmission” outweighed the positives of the parade in the eyes of Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG). “We need to keep calm heads, we don’t want to drive on hysteria,” Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) cautioned as he welcomed the proposal.  “Who thought the Covid-19 would be up the road. Your health is your wealth,” Cllr Pat Daly (FF) remarked.

An “economic impact” is on the cards for the county that “will knock inward tourism”, Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) maintained. He was disgusted to have attended a funeral over the weekend which had no visible hand sanitisers and highlighted the need for all public buildings to have them readily available.

Statistics as first reported by The Business Post in which 40% of the population are set to get coronvirus were cited by Cllr Pat Hayes (FF). “We want best practice to become the norm. Whatever we attend, we must ensure the norm is proper hygiene”. Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) insisted now was the time for the local authority to get “on top” of the matter.

Council Chief Executive, Pat Dowling clarified that the decision was solely to do with the Ennis parade and that other communities would have to make up their mind based on the best interests of the area.

Decisions were already made to cancel March 17th parades in Kilkee, Ennistymon, Kilfenora, Fanore, Liscannor, Lisdoonvarna and Miltown Malbay. Such groups were commended by Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) for “acting responsibly”.

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