*Broadford’s long wait is to end.
AFTER MANY FALSE dawns, Broadford and Cooraclare is finally on the cusp of securing Government funding for wastewater treatment plants.
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien (FF) is to announce successful applicants in the €50m scheme for essential sewage infrastructure for rural villages. He is to unveil details within five days, Government sources have told The Clare Echo.
Last April, Minister O’Brien first gave details of the scheme and in September 2022, Broadford and Cooraclare were submitted by Clare County Council in an official application for inclusion.
In the fourteen months since the local authority made its application, the county’s two Government TDs, Joe Carey (FG) and Cathal Crowe (FF) have been guilty on more than one occasion of stating that announcements on the scheme were due “within weeks”.
Deputy Carey in February said there would be “clarity” and that the wait would be resolved in February of this year while Deputy Crowe had said Minister O’Brien would stick to the commitment he gave in Broadford in September 2021.
At a special meeting of Clare County Council with Oireachtas members this September, Mayor of Clare, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) received a round of applause from fellow councillors when he said, “We’re sick of hearing a couple of weeks at this stage” and referenced, that they had been “told numerous times there would be an announcement made on the wastewater scheme”. At this meeting, Deputy Crowe said an announcement would be issued by October 10th.
Speaking to The Clare Echo this week, Deputy Crowe said discussions were now “into the final hurdles” and that he expected an official announcement by Monday evening. “The Minister has decided and a decision has been made on what villages will make it through, there are some last minute formal steps to be overcome namely the Department has to correspond with each successful local authority and the press release giving the final grant approval figures has to be released and we’re within days of that”.
Details on the exact finances allocated to both Broadford and Cooraclare have not been unveiled. “Most of the funding will be met by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage but also there will be a funding element coming from the communities and Clare County Council, these will be County Council led schemes which sets it apart from Irish Water,” Meelick native Crowe said.
He confirmed that both communities will have to meet a portion of the costs. “Controversially both villages saw land zonings stripped back in August, it was an extremely frustrating couple of weeks and I very much felt the pressure as the local TD. Frustrating as all as it was, it came down to having no sewerage infrastructure so the zoning was deemed to be ineligible, if we get to the point that I believe we’re close to, there is a mechanism that they can reinstate the zonings”.
Crowe continued, “It is safe to say that after forty plus years of waiting Broadford and Cooraclare will get approval for a wastewater scheme, I believe both are going to get a very positive outcome. I had a meeting with Darragh O’Brien over the weekend and I have been redoubling efforts with officials in his Department since”.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, Crowe said, “It will breath huge life into these villages. We are only waiting on the formal announcement now but I am confident enough has been done”.
Frustrations of personnel in both communities with the enhanced wait over the last two years was acknowledged by Deputy Crowe. “Some criticism is fair but the schemes take some time to be up and running, they are not standalone applications, they are bundled in with more than a dozen others around the country. I believe the Clare applications were of a higher standard that most, they are shovel ready projects”.
He acknowledged the efforts of both communities in continuing to fight for wastewater infrastructure in their localities. “There has been an immense effort in both communities. PJ Mason very much led the Broadford campaign with his neighbours while the local councillors have been hands-on in their approach. In Cooraclare, there was an equally active community group, it was the last public meeting attended by the late Brendan Daly and he was very keen that it would go ahead, as we near an announcement on this scheme, I am very much aware of his immense input”.
Rural sewerage schemes formed part of the submission made by Deputy Crowe along with Airport support and supporting the post office network in suggestions for the Programme for Government, he said. “Irish Water are ordinarily the investing body for sewerage and wastewater infrastructure, they have a tendency for going into the larger towns, their infrastructural plans have totally neglected rural towns and villages, there are over 50 without wastewater treatment in Clare so this needs to become multi-annual funding”.