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*Crowds on the prom in Lahinch on Saturday. Photograph: John Mangan

Coastal locations in Co Clare experienced a big surge in visitors last weekend while Clare County Council have confirmed that public toilets at Spanish Point and White Strand will be open for the May Bank Holiday.

Fine weather coinciding with an easing in restrictions permitting county travel resulted in people flocking towards the coast and also in the vicinity of tourist spots in East and North Clare.

Traffic was “bumper to bumper” in Kilnamona as visitors headed to Lahinch over the weekend, one source told The Clare Echo. Spanish Point and Kilkee also welcomed large crowds.

Frustration had been voiced with the shortage of toilet facilities most notably the closed public toilets in Spanish Point. One source told The Clare Echo that hundreds of people were in Spanish Point but could not avail of public toilets or a place to dispose of rubbish and that access to the beach was hampered by ongoing works. The Armada Hotel allowed members of the public to use their toilets due to the facilities being closed at Spanish Point.

Public facilities at Lahinch, Kilkee and Fanore were open over the weekend. “Large amounts of litter discarded on the ground by the public was removed by Council staff despite the availability of bins,” a spokesperson for Clare County Council confirmed.

According to the spokesperson, “The plan had been to open these facilities a week before the bank holiday weekend and to follow with more facilities this coming May bank holiday weekend. However, it is acknowledged that last weekend some exceptional factors coincided a week ahead of the annual start of the season including the very sunny weather and the lifting of lockdown restrictions with people eager to go to the beach”.

Lack of “available resources” meant the facilities at Spanish Point did not open. “In order to open facilities, there needed to be adequate resources to ensure that facilities were maintained to the standard required during the pandemic. Clare County Council is committing to investing in the additional significant resources required at numerous beach locations throughout the county and will be opening toilets in Spanish Point and White Strand in addition to Fanore, Lahinch, Kilkee and Cappa for the coming May bank holiday weekend and for the summer season. The management of crowds in a public place is a matter for the Gardaí in cooperation with the local authority and other agencies. This level of cooperation continues and plans are in place for the summer season”.

Current restrictions do not allow for inter-county travel only for persons to go 20km from their home if they are living on a county border. Garda checkpoints were in place outside the grounds of St Senan’s Kilkee over the weekend with fixed penalty notices issued for individuals that were travelling outside of their county. A tailback of cars said to be half a mile was visible at this time.

Lahinch representative, Cllr Shane Talty (FF) said it was “blatantly obvious” persons from outside the county were visiting Clare. “On the prom in Lahinch on Saturday evening, I could recognise 90 percent of the people as being ‘local’ from this side of Ennis. There are some but you are back to human nature and human decisions, we’ve had five months of a tortuous lockdown and you get the opportunity to avail of fine weather and big open spaces in beaches and proms along the west coast, it is not a Clare only problem, it is all over the country”.

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