*Cllr Mary Howard (FG) and Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF).

PROTESTORS AGAINST THE PLANNED demolition of the Francis Street cottages have said Ennis councillors sitting on the Board of the Ennis 2040 DAC have a “conflict of interest” and should resign from their voluntary posts.

Eleven individuals currently sit on the board of the company which is owned by Clare County Council. Members include former Roche MD Gerry Cahill, founder of TTM Healthcare Brian Crowley, CEO of the Irish Centre of Business Excellence Linda Barron, Head of AIB for Clare, Limerick and Kerry Kieran Considine, Ennis 2040 COO Kevin Corrigan, office manger of Ennis 2040 Susan Lenane.

A strong Clare County Council contingent completes the make-up of the board with the Council’s Director of Finance and Support Services Noeleen Fitzgerald, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF), Cllr Mary Howard (FG) and Cllr Ann Norton (IND) all sitting on the board. Howard was appointed to the Board following Cllr Johnny Flynn’s (FG) resignation in September 2022.

Liam Conneally had been a board member whilst in the role of Director of Economic Development for Clare County Council, the Ennistymon native has since been appointed Chief Executive of Galway County Council.

To have persons sitting on the board who voted in their elected roles to the Ennis Municipal District for the construction of a temporary car park on Francis Street resulting in the demolition of six properties is “a conflict of interest”, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) maintained. “Those same people sit at Council meetings and make a decision to buy the land, they are also selling the land, I just don’t get it and I would question that. Equally if you were to have representatives on a board designated to improve Ennis, the representation should be from across the county, there should be one councillor from each Municipal District, West Clare, Shannon and Killaloe which would be more fair and democratic because you would have a countywide view and voice for it, it would be that little bit more democratic”.

Shannon based Flynn felt the trio of Colleran Molloy, Howard and Norton needed to reflect. “I think they really need to question their mandate because their mandate is from the public and to protect the interests from the public, not to protect the interests that was set up by a company set up by Clare County Council”.

Tommy Guilfoyle of the Francis Street Alliance was adamant the three councillors could not separate themselves from their role on the Ennis 2040 Board when decisions have to be made. “This is obviously a conflict of interest, I would say as an SPC member that I oppose the DAC and the privatisation of Council decisions, the privatisation of the public’s property in Ennis is wrong”.

Guilfoyle previously sat on the board of the daa, a role he was appointed to in October 2009 and kept until Shannon Airport’s separation in 2012. “As a board member I remember distinctly if anybody from the business community was there and they had a conflict of interest they had to step off the board, that is common practice, they had to leave the room if the discussions were to do with a business they were involved in. This is obviously a conflict of interest,” he recalled.

Ballynacally native Tim Hannon who is also part of the Alliance voiced similar criticism. “I think there’s a conflict of interest, whether in the eyes of the law there is a conflict of interest I don’t know but what I can say there’s been huge problems with different DAC companies around the country over the last couple of years, there’s no transparency whatsoever, once that site is transferred into the ownership of the DAC, it says it is temporary but it could become a long-term thing, what might well happen then is the site gets transferred into private ownership somehow”.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Cllr Howard confirmed she would not be resigning from the Board. “I have no intention of resigning from the Board, absolutely none whatsoever, I think it is very important to have three members of the Ennis Municipal District sitting on that board. I’m born and raised in Ennis, Ennis is who I represent, it is what I’m elected to do and by sitting on that board I think I can serve that role very well”.

She added, “We are all voluntary members of the Board, we don’t get paid for doing it, the Ennis 2040 has a vision, it is the first time we have joined up thinking and a vision for the future of how Ennis is going to look, how we’re going to live, how we’re going to enjoy and invest in this town. We need this vision. The Francis Street development is only a tiny part of this, I don’t believe for one minute that we have a conflict of interest, in fact it makes us really vested in ensuring that it’s a success”.

Suggesting the three councillors resign was “entirely unacceptable,” Mayor of the Ennis MD, Cllr Colleran Molloy insisted, she said they were representing the Clare councillors who adopted the strategy in June 2021. Views that they have a conflict of interest were “entirely irrational,” she said.

“To suggest there is a conflict of interest is disingenuous and irrational, our interests align, conflict suggests there is benefit for me and other councillors, we are there at the behest of county councillors on this entity, how could there be a conflict, instead of conflict this is a complete alignment of interests,” the Ballybeg resident told The Clare Echo.

Efforts to contact Cllr Ann Norton (IND) were unsuccessful.

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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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