*Primary school students involved in the 2023 Fleadh Nua. 

IT MAY have been one degree outside but within the Council Chamber, temperatures were once again rising among Ennis Municipal District councillors on Tuesday morning.

Needless spats are almost becoming a statutory item on the agenda when Ennis MD convene for their monthly meeting with Abbey Street car park once again fanning the flames.

Cllr Tom O’Callaghan (FF) was made withdraw his motion on the civic space usage of Abbey Street car park. He proposed, “In recognition of the fiftieth anniversary of the First Fleadh Nua in Ennis in 2024 that Ennis Municipal District Executive refrain from preventing Comhaltas using the Abbey Street Carpark Civic Space for Fleadh Nua public celebration events. Such events, if they so wish as they have done in the past, might be free public Gig Rig Concert(s)”.

An identical motion had also been submitted by Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) but he was unable to attend the meeting due to a bereavement.

Speaking on Tuesday, Cllr O’Callaghan outlined that the Clare County Board of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann contacted him with “an exciting proposal”. He said the first Fleadh Nua was held in Dublin in 1970 but since 1974 it has been held annually in Ennis and plans are afoot to make the fiftieth anniversary a special celebration, “it promises to be full to the brim of concerns, céilís, CD launches and street entertainment”. He added that Frank Whelan and Colm Nestor whom he described as “close friends” highlighted the importance of the festival.

Clarity was then sought by Cllr Mary Howard (FG) who said the motion was “misleading” and emphasised that Comhaltas had not been refused use of the car park. She stressed, “I am not seconding the motion, we have never refused use of the car park”.

In response, Cllr O’Callaghan commented, “It is to ensure it is made available”. He continued, “there is lot of concern from members of the public” regarding future plans for Abbey Street car park. “We welcome the answer if there isn’t any refrainment, they have made it very clear to me on the basis that if it is not in Abbey St civic space then it won’t be a success”. The Clarecastle based representative added, “If we have the civic space we need to embrace it”.

Wording of the proposal is “incorrect,” Cllr Ann Norton (IND) remarked. “What has been said there around that the Fleadh won’t be successful if it is not in Abbey St, that again is a statement that is a very strong statement which I think is incorrect. The Fleadh Nua and any festival that Comhaltas run has always been a success, there is many different areas within the town of Ennis that would be able to hold the Fleadh Nua whether it is the first night to open the Fleadh but this discussion needs to be between the executive of Clare County Council and Comhaltas, I don’t think it is something that we should be discussing without having all of the information”.

Pointing out that he was keen to support Comhaltas with whatever they had planned, Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) flagged, “the Temple Gate car park is another possible venue but I’m not getting involved in a row”.

Opting for a different approach was Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF), she said, “the motion would indicate that action had been taken”. She suggested her colleague “alter the language” of his proposal.

Administrative officer, Niamh O’Connor told the meeting that the local authority has “a great relationship with Comhaltas”. She said, “last year in their proposal Comhaltas presented where they wanted to host different events in a number of locations, they suggested THE Gig Rig in Abbey St but they didn’t proceed with and it wasn’t in their final schedule, they didn’t continue with the Gig Rig and that was their choice”.

Offering support to the motion was Mayor of the Ennis MD, Cllr Pat Daly (FF). “If Comhaltas want to use Abbey St car park then they won’t be stopped. They are a great organisation in the town in the last fifty years”.

This prompted Cllr Howard to interject, “We’re speaking about the motion which is incorrect”. Contributions of Cllr Howard and Cllr Norton were labelled as “very helpful” by Cllr O’Callaghan who added, “we need to know the civic space is open for people. We need to ensure it is available for Comhaltas, they are very keen to speak to Niamh and this will be a wonderful time for us in the town”.

How the motion is worded is “incorrect,” Cllr Colleran Molloy responded as she confirmed she was supporting Cllr Howard.

Mayor Daly then asked Cllr O’Callaghan to remove the word refrain from the motion but Cllr Howard insisted, “the motion needs to be null and void”. Cllr O’Callaghan responded, “These motions don’t come out from the sky. There is huge concern in society about the civic space in Abbey St, the Santa Claus welcome was a fantastic success and credit to the Executive for that. They want the clarity that the space will be made available”.

“He is not addressing the specific request. The motion suggests action was taken to refrain. Motion is inaccurate,” Cllr Colleran Molloy said with Cllr Howard adding, “I think it needs to be withdrawn”.

Cllr O’Callaghan argued, “It is recognition and making sure the space is available. There is digging going on in the car park which is affecting 24 parking spaces and retailers”. Cllr Howard cautioned, “Comhaltas will get upset over this because it will not be pleasant to read”.

Appealing to councillors to ensure the civic space is made “fully available,” Cllr O’Callaghan was then reminded by Cllr Howard, “I’m elected fifteen years and it has been used for those fifteen years, you’re only with us for the last few months. The motion needs to be removed”.

Sensing the growing tension, Mayor Daly asked Cllr O’Callaghan to withdraw the motion and re-submit in January with amended wording. “I see your concerns about Abbey St car park, I’ve no doubt if they want to use it they will be let”.

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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.

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