*Quin. Photograph: John Mangan

A “proactive programme” to aid the recovery of businesses in East Clare has been requested by an elected representative of Clare County Council.

Staff in the Killaloe Municipal District are currently assessing “to best promote social distancing” in towns and villages throughout East Clare. “We believe social distancing is going to stay with us for a year if not two,” acting senior executive officer Morgan Lahiffe outlined.

Road staff within the District are to assess footpaths whereby it will be possible to put social distancing measures in place on a long-term basis. Similar evaluations will take place across the county, “Killaloe Municipal District will be looking at villages independently to assess them,” Lahiffe said.

Issues affecting businesses in the area need to be factored into any plans, Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) believed. He referred to “a very proactive programme” ran by Cork County Council where 28 locations have been taken on with teams appointed to look at towns and villages. He suggested a countywide equivalent with “someone leading it from the Killaloe Municipal District and look at issues that affect businesses”.

He highlighted the Council’s dependence on rate-payers and felt the Cork example “has given us confidence that we can be independent” and noted how they finalised a deal in the middle of a pandemic. The Chair of the Rural Development SPC added, “we need to be at the forefront, we are the main agency dealing with the public”. He appealed to the SEO to liaise with businesses, “it is an opportunity for us to show our mettle as a local authority”.

“I hear what Cllr Hayes is saying,” stated Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) who praised the work of the local authority during COVID-19. He labelled the time and effort put in as “something unbelievable”. “We have been well up to the mark in this county as regards COVID-19”.

Clarity was sought by Cllr Hayes that the matter would be taken on board by the Council and repeated his request for the SEO to meet with businesses. “I know it is a challenge but we’re talking about small businesses, they are in critical towns so it would be important that we speak to rate-payers, it is an initiative that could be very good to us. It would engage businesses very much and try get towns back to life”.

Director of Service, Anne Haugh confirmed that there will be engagement with business representatives in local towns, “that consultation piece is very important. We do need to engage with the business community in the towns and villages to determine what they need to gradually get back on track, that will be happening”.

Financial assistance from the National Transport Authority is to be sought as part of a fund to aid temporary mobility measures. “We’re only getting off the ground now, a lot of businesses haven’t opened yet so now is the time to be engaging with them,” she added.

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