West Clare councillors have claimed their jurisdiction is not getting the same treatment as the county town.
Commencement of a West Clare Municipal District Plan which was described as “a vision for West Clare” was requested by Cllr Ian Lynch (IND). This piece of work would provide a road map incorporating a cohesive strategy for the social and economic development of the area. The needs of West and North Clare should be distinct in the plan “while maximising and protecting the commonalities, that bind both areas together as one”.
Director of Service, Leonard Cleary labelled Lynch’s proposal as “very positive in its aspiration for an integrated and strategic approach to the development” of the West Clare MD. “This motion is based on the solid business principle that business ‘structure’ follows ‘strategy’ and the development of a strategic vision,” he acknowledged.
Cleary referenced the West Clare MD Plan of Priority Strategic Projects which was adopted by councillors as already setting out a strategic vision for the area while also identifying projects to be prioritised during the current tenure of elected representatives. All opportunities to avail of National Government funding will be pursued, he added.
Discussing his motion at a recent meeting of the West Clare MD, Cllr Lynch surmised that the Director’s response was “very diplomatic” and acknowledged the work done to date. He recalled his final address as Cathaoirleach of the MD in June 2019, “I said we needed a strategic plan and I’m looking for equality”.
At the January sitting of Clare County Council, Ennis 2040 was called a county plan, the Kilrush representative reminded the meeting, “that was put together by the hard-working Ennis MD, I’m requesting we have a strategic plan broken down. We need a plan going forward on how we envisage how this area of the county is going to develop into the future. Ennis was done with projections on a previous climate, those figures have changed”.
Development of rural areas would “go hand in hand” with a strategic plan, Lynch added. He said that Clare County Council has been called Ennis County Council due to a perceived bias towards the capital in decision making.
Speaking at the meeting, the Director of Rural Development felt the desire from the former General Election candidate was a development plan focused on economic and population growth rather than projects. “I’ve seen lots of plans over the lifetime at the Council, if I’ve any frustration it’s that plans don’t always turn into projects which is why I steered into projects. I would have a project bias as opposed to lovely documents,” he added.
As he seconded the motion, Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) outlined, “I like the timeline of Ennis 2040 so when something happens in the middle of it like COVID it is not skewed completely. If you have a five year plan and you get hit by COVID your whole plan goes out the window”. He felt the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy from the Southern Assembly was now based on “incorrect” assumptions as a result.
Producing a 20 year plan for the West Clare MD to stand by will benefit the area, Cllr Murphy believed. “The industrial revolution drove people into the cities, what we’re looking at now is another workplace revolution, a quality of life upgrade is what people are looking at”.
Cathaoirleach of the West Clare MD, Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) suggested that the Southern Assembly revisit the RSES in light of the pandemic. He said the decentralisation proposal of former Minister for Finance Charlie McCreevy (FF) in the early 2000s “might look more realistic now”. The views raised were “very relevant,” Cllr Susan Crawford (GP) stated in adding her support.