SWIFT MOVEMENT is needed to appoint a business development officer to maximise the potential of the maritime training college in Kilrush.
In a joint motion before the West Clare Municipal District, Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) and Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) asked for a Designated Active Company (DAC) be established by Clare County Council and for funding to be sourced to hire an operations officer “to deliver the maritime training college project in Kilrush Marina, and to liaise with the off shore renewable sector to maximise the potential opportunities presented by the development of off shore renewable energy to the communities of West Clare”.
A DAC was set up in 2018 under the name of the Clare Maritime Economic Zone (Clare MEZ) DAC) as part of the application for funding under the Enterprise Ireland – Regional Enterprise Development Fund.
This resulted in a successful funding application for resources to hire a business manager yet no appointment has been made in the four years since.
Securing €3.5m under the Rural Regeneration Development Fund (RRDF) was “the biggest announcement since Moneypoint in the 1980s,” Cllr Lynch remarked. He said the plans for the maritime training centre and offshore renewable research base represented “a huge project for West Clare”. He continued, “The project speaks for itself, its potential is absolutely massive”.
Kilrush based Lynch was adamant the Council cannot rest on its laurels regarding the project. “Just because we got good news doesn’t mean this project is dead in the water. We’re not here to administer funds, we’re here to provide services. This project cannot sit there, it needs to start now, just because we have it in West Clare doesn’t mean it won’t happen elsewhere. We need to get timelines on it”.
Up to €1.75m was set aside for the granting of the DAC in 2018 with €375,000 of this to deal with the employment of a business development officer, Cllr Murphy recounted. He said if the positive announcement of RRDF funding had not come to fruition “we’d be roaring and shouting to see why this person was not in place”. He felt a hiring was “imperative” and he equated it with the “significant outcomes for the town of Ennis” since Kevin Corrigan was appointed Chief Operating Officer of the Ennis 2040 DAC.
Murphy said the DAC needed to be activated “because it’s been sitting on the shelf”, money from Enterprise Ireland had to be drawn down to procure the employment of a business development officer and to lodge planning permission quickly. “I cannot think of any single bigger opportunity that West Clare has at its feet, this is rural development at its core and it has the capacity to deliver jobs directly very quickly”.
An office must now be established to lead the project, Cllr Gabriel Keating (FG) stated. “I’d an idea the grant was on the way, we’ve the wherewithal to make an office available”.
Director of Rural Development, Leonard Cleary advised the meeting that it would be a “practical approach” to invite his Economic Development counterpart, Liam Conneally to address a future meeting of the West Clare MD.
“We have to learn, four years pushing the buck doesn’t make sense,” Cllr PJ Kelly (FF) commented. He said offshore energy was the big topic at a meeting of the Southern Regional Assembly this month with issues like cumbersome planning and “objecting for the sake of objecting” raised. “Red tape has been choking this county for too long,” he added.
Positivity must be exuded by local representatives, Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) felt. “We are in difficult times, we’re looking at negative headlines the whole time, we need to be positive and look for hope, this gives us hope for the future. Urgency is going to be important”.
Kilrush’s Marina “is architecturally a jewel,” Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) commented, “it is a huge asset to Kilrush and it will bring business to a wonderful part of Clare”. He added, “We get bad publicity but this is good publicity for North and West Clare”. He also attended the Southern Regional Assembly meeting with Cllr Kelly, “it is the most approrpriate site in Europe for offshore floating wind devices, a rising tide lifts all boats, may further developments come off the back of it”.
Renewable energy may not be the making of the plans, Cllr Lynch responded. “This project can survive in full capacity without renewables, there’s other markets out there. The cruise industry can get training there. There might be no renewable developments off it but this project must go ahead”.