*Avenue Utd officers, Gearoid Mannion and Tommy Molloy with Cllr Tom O’Callaghan (FF). 

AS THE COUNTDOWN begins to the local elections on June 7th, The Clare Echo this week examines one of the subjects causing debate among county councillors, the General Municipal Allocation.

This year’s Adopted Budget in the County Council includes a General Municipal Allocation of €1.37m in total, an increase of €364k on the 2023 provision. This fund is used by elected members of the Council to benefit community and voluntary organisations. The GMA was introduced following the reform of the Local Government Act in 2014.

Local councillors have previously stated that for every €1 spent on the GMA it resulted in a €3 benefit for the local community.

Representatives in the Ennis Municipal District are now using their General Municipal Allocation to “buy votes” a former Mayor of Clare has claimed.

Clashes and disputes are becoming increasingly common at meetings of the Ennis MD and deciding on who benefits from the GMA is among the latest areas to pit county councillors against each other. A recent majority decision was made for councillors to use their GMA individually rather than from a collective pot in the Ennis MD.

Addressing a recent meeting of the Ennis MD, Cllr Tom O’Callaghan (FF) said recent decisions on how to allocate the GMA in Ennis has led to “a fourfold increase” and he claimed it was now done with more “fairness, equality and transparency”. He has called for councillors to declare if there is a conflict of interest where they are choosing who to give their GMA to. “I believe very strongly that the provided allocation should include if a councillor has declared a conflict of interest”.

Transparency has existed in the Ennis MD since its formation, Cllr Ann Norton (IND) stated. “Over the last nine and a half years it is something as an MD and Council we have always been asked the question whether we have a conflict of interest, there is a number of us that have had to excuse ourselves from a briefing or discussion and it has always been recorded but it has never been an issue and I don’t think it would become an issue, as public representatives the majority of us are involved in different groups and organisations but we always make it very clear at the beginning of a briefing if we need to be excused and that has always been recorded. I’d be very comfortable that the staff who are recording our meetings do this on a regular and professional basis”.

Tabulated figures with more detail on the GMA was welcomed by Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG). He noted that 2024 was the first year in a decade that Ennis MD representatives were on “on par with rural councillors”.

Stating that he respected the views of Cllr Flynn, Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) pointed out, “there was plenty of money pumped into Ennis” from rural areas when it came to street cleaning and other means.

Ratepayers paid for those commitments in the days of Ennis Urban District Council and Ennis Town Council, Cllr Flynn responded, “they had to stomach an 11.5% increase, the fair argument from 2014 was that commitments be taken out”.

A word of warning was issued by Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF), “this isn’t a good departure for our District. We’re no longer cooperating. For the past nine and a half years, we shared the money from common pots that we could support. The new departure that my councillors are suggesting is a positive development and I don’t consider it so, saying we’re on the same league as our rural councillors is disingenuous, they don’t have the same amount of festivals to support, this new departure puts funding for these festivals at risk”. She continued, “When I was first elected, there was a clear understanding that the GAA clubs had a huge backing in terms of organisations, we see nationally huge philanthropic money going into it”.

Strong criticism was also voiced by Cllr Mary Howard (FG). “We had an agreement the same way in Ennis Town Council going back ten years where we split the money among different groups and organisations, the pot of money was there to support a whole bunch of local organisations”. She added, “To me it is almost like a poisoned chalice, who do you support and who do you not, we’re buying votes now, the GAA clubs with the critical mass of people they have and the same with soccer clubs, the GAA clubs have access to lotteries and it is a very uneven playing pitch”. Successful candidates following the local elections will need to review the matter again, she felt.

Responding to the criticism, Cllr O’Callaghan pointed out it was his colleague Cllr Colleran Molloy “who suggested names go behind the allocation which I felt comfortable with”. He listed off Sláinte an Chláir, Clarecastle GAA and the Micheál Cusack Centre as some of the areas which will benefit from his GMA. “In defence of our sporting organisations, I’m big into mental health, one thing these organisations do is help young people stay on straight and narrow”.

Figures from 2019 must also be included in the tabular format, Cllr Flynn requested. “All of last year’s commitments to festivals, tidy towns and organisations will be met this year”. The distribution of the local property tax back to Co Clare has lifted the Council’s budget which should be reflected in the financial support for festivals in the locality.

Barefield based Cllr Norton stated, “it has been mentioned that the Ennis MD Cllrs and it has been mentioned that the non-Ennis based Cllrs are getting funding, I’m an Ennis MD Cllr, I have been reared in the town of Ennis, I live on the outskirts of Ennis in a village but I’m an Ennis MD Cllr, my focus is on Ennis MD irrespective of whether I live in the centre of the town or the outskirts of the town I am an Ennis Cllr, I have been an always be, I have worked extremely hard for the people of Ennis and the MD, all of the funding I’ve been allocated by my colleagues over the last nine years has gone towards supporting groups and organisations in the Ennis MD”.

Changing the format in an election year was not wise, Cllr Norton commented. “You’re all aware that I’ve been involved for last 20 years in trying to support the children of Ennis and across the county with therapy that they need, it is costing us €250,000 on an annual basis, I need help and funding because we don’t get Government funding, if the group that I deal with had not got the clinic in the heart of Ennis providing so much support for parents and children of this county then we would have a hell of a lot more people knocking on our doors for support”. Councillors should focus on helping communities instead of bickering, she added. “I see myself as an Ennis woman, because I got married and had the opportunity to build a house in Barefield does not mean I am not from Ennis”.

Lenihan told the meeting the 2019 figures which were also from an election year can be added to their data. “We had a meeting about GMA, a decision was taken whether people agree or disagree, there is nothing to stop ye coming together for particular groupings if ye so wish, any commitments from last year were met”.

Related News

des lynch cheque 1
Lynch family raise €54k in memory of Des
hydro hotel
Hotel operators made millionaires for accommodating International protection applicants says Clare TD
Shannon Heritage Workers Protest at Bunratty Folk Park-5776
Surplus solution prompts councillors to row back on claims Flynn was breaking rules with GMA spend
paul bugler tony killeen darragh mcallister páraic mcmahon 1-2
The Electoral Chair - Varadkar's Earthquake / Clare's political climate / Standout councillors & those stepping away
Latest News
des lynch cheque 1
Lynch family raise €54k in memory of Des
hydro hotel
Hotel operators made millionaires for accommodating International protection applicants says Clare TD
Shannon Heritage Workers Protest at Bunratty Folk Park-5776
Surplus solution prompts councillors to row back on claims Flynn was breaking rules with GMA spend
paul bugler tony killeen darragh mcallister páraic mcmahon 1-2
The Electoral Chair - Varadkar's Earthquake / Clare's political climate / Standout councillors & those stepping away
clare v down 24-03-24 dermot coughlan
'We didn't have a go' - disappointment as ferocious Down keep Clare in Division 3
Premium
feakle v crusheen 23-03-24 gerry o'grady steven conway 1
Consecutive Clare Cup wins for Inamona, Feakle, Doora/Barefield & Clarecastle
tipperary v clare 23-04-23 aidan mccarthy 1
Clare in Tipp top shape to soar to National League Final
crusheen railway station
'Startling' population growth of Crusheen will aid case to reopen rail station
clare v down 24-03-24 stephen ryan 1
Clare to stay Down in Division 3 after promotion hopes dashed in Newry
online gambling
Ex-pupil of fee paying school who turned over estimated €500,000 in bets to escape conviction for 'money-mule' offence

Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

Scroll to Top