*John O’Connor addresses the crowd in Ennis. Photograph: John Mangan

“TOGETHER WE can Save Ennis Town” was the rallying call issued at a demonstration in the heart of the county town on Saturday afternoon.

Organised by Save Ennis Town, a public rally at O’Connell Square attracted an attendance of 200 plus protesting against the planned construction on riverside civic amenities in Ennis.

Two of the nine transformational projects for the Ennis 2040 strategy include proposals to build on car parks in the town centre, namely Abbey Street and Parnell Street (Harvey’s Quay).

Saturday’s rally lasted forty one minutes, beginning and ending with traditional music from the Height.

Political figures present at the rally included Clare TD, Michael McNamara (IND), Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG), Cllr Tom O’Callaghan (FF), Mayor of the Ennis MD Cllr Pat Daly (FF), Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) plus European election candidates Susan Doyle (SD), Paul Gavan (SF) and local election candidates Hilary Tonge (SD), Bridget Ginnity (GP), Tommy Guilfoyle (SF), Antoinette Baker Bashua (FF), Amanda Major (IND) and Seamus Ryan (LAB).

Save Ennis Town is comprised of Gearoid Mannion, Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG), Joan Duggan, Cllr Tom O’Callaghan (FF), Cora Hahessy, Michelle O’Connell, Feargal Ó Dualaing, Edel Cassidy, Bridget Ginnity, Garry Miley, Hilary Tonge, Ray Conway and John O’Connor.

Chairman of Save Ennis Town, Gearoid Mannion thanked the crowd for coming out “and opposing what some people are trying to foist upon us”. He recalled that it was exactly a year since a public meeting was held in Ennis, a gathering that resulted in the creation of Save Ennis Town, “we’ve built a formidable movement since”.

On the plans for car parks in Abbey Street and Parnell Street, he labelled them “speculative projects” which go “a step too far”. The travel counsellor remarked, “we already have one white elephant in the town” which drew jeers from the crowd.

Earlier on Saturday morning, he said he managed to get the last car space outside The Snack Shack in Abbey Street and watched “everybody trying to get a parking space”. Should the mixed-use development proceed, he questioned, “where will we park, where will your customers park, where will our tourists visiting Ennis park and where will the Waterford supporters park when they come up to get a hiding from the Clare hurlers”.

Addressing the crowd, John O’Connor said it was humbling to stand in the shadow of Daniel O’Connell. He referenced previous speeches at the location by O’Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell and Eamon de Valera, their cause linked to that of Save Ennis Town in that each occasion saw people speaking up for “voiceless people,” he maintained.

O’Connor who owns Custy’s Music Shop claimed an “anti-democratic rot” started “with a group who arrived from the east with a plan and it is a reiteration of Limerick 2030”. He criticised the Chief Executive of Clare County Council, Pat Dowling and Director of Services Carmel Kirby for trying to replicate a plan which “has failed in Limerick”.

An absence of democracy was slammed by O’Connor who claimed Ennis 2040 DAC lacked accountability, transparency and an unwillingness to engage with the public. Councillors sitting on the board of the DAC “run with the hounds, when this was voted on a year ago three councillors who are sitting on the board who voted to cede the car park to the people, they are three women but because of a threat of litigation I will not name them, they compromised you and me as a democrat”. He continued, “we have a voice, we definitely have a voice on the 7th of June, look kindly on the people who are with us, not the people who call us bananas or a pothole in the greater scheme of things thank you Pat Dowling”.

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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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