“A BIG SOCIAL DEFICIT” exists in the town of Ennis for the elderly putting them “in isolation”.
Stark concerns experienced by the elderly were put forward by Mary Mather-Leahy speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the Social Development SPC.
Mary who is the community and voluntary representative on the SPC on behalf of Clare PPN stated, “We are not able to walk into the town centre, we would like a bus to take us into the town centre and bring us home at a scheduled time.
“I’ve asked councillors to address it, we’re living in isolation, we’ve bus passes and taxi is €9 in and out. There is a big social deficit in the town of Ennis for the elderly,” the Ennis resident maintained.
Just last month, Ennis was named winner of the age friendly environment award at the National Age Friendly Recognition and Achievement Awards. The Ennis Age Friendly Town Strategy was formulated and implemented by the Ennis Age Friendly Town Team, a group formed by the Age Friendly Programme Manager and led by Ennis Municipal District. The strategy contained actions across a number of areas including improvements in the physical environment, urban policing, social and recreational infrastructure, health and wellbeing and age-friendly orientated customer service.
Enhancements to the physical environment included drop kerbs, additional pedestrian crossings, age-friendly seating, age-friendly parking as well as accessibility enhancements to recreational areas. The implementation of the strategy ensures the needs of the older person are incorporated into the design and delivery of services and infrastructure in Ennis.
Mather Leahy’s comments came following a presentation by Clare County Council’s newly appointed town regeneration officer, Linda Earlie. “A town centre first policy aims at creating centres that function as viable, vibrant and attractive locations for people to live, work and visit while also functioning as the service, socio, cultural and recreational hub for the local community”.
Making town centres a more attractive place to all, combatting out of town and online shopping, reactivating vacant and derelict property, enhancing pedestrian and cyclist access and increasing employment are among the goals of the policy. A masterplan is currently being prepared for Sixmilebridge.
How the policy is worded was criticised by Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF), “it feels like we’re leaving rural communities behind”. She highlighted the need to focus on transport within towns and villages and referenced recent comments by Cllr John Crowe (FG) in The Clare Echo that Sixmilebridge was the most congested town “because of the need to be in a car due to lack of transport options”.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) who wished to see a rural development first officer appointed.
Town centre first is “potentially one of the pieces in the jigsaw that can pull together a lot of our strategies. Town centre from a rural perspective, the small town is the hub of the community and is where the life is, we’re driving in from North Clare from places with room for a pony to go for a walk, the social benefit of being together in properly designed shared spaces is critical,” said Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG). He spoke of a visit to Obair in Newmarket-on-Fergus last week, “it is an exemplary centre at a national level, it is brilliant social enterprise which has grabbed the bull by the horns”.
Social inclusion representative, Noel Kearney maintained that town centres “must be reliable and accessible. A lot of transport isn’t consistent at the moment”. He voiced concern with the lack of public transport for persons with disabilities.
Mobility is among the terms of every town centre first and regeneration plan, Linda explained. Transporation options for Sixmilebridge are being assessed, she confirmed. She said the matter of a rural officer was for the rural development directorate to discuss and flagged that transport wasn’t specifically within her remit but was happy to assess it.